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Here is the latest Snippets…

CM-EU:160822:(09 SEP 16):Europe’s Long War with Islam.. 1

CM-EU:160903:(09 SEP 16):Europe’s 1,000-Year War of Islam.. 3

IS-WORLD:160901:(09 SEP 16):Israel Courts Foreign Money in Effort to Become Gas Exporter 3

IS-EU:1609Israel seeks new gas routes to Europe after fixing red tape. 4

UK-UKBR:160902:(09 SEP 16):BRITAIN’S ECONOMY BOOMS: New figures show RECORD RISE in manufacturing results  4

EGE-RU:160903:(09 SEP 16):Germany Gets Friendly With Russia. 6

UKBR:160903:(09 SEP 16):Brexit gives us a chance to finish the Thatcher revolution. 6

UKBR-EU:160903:(09 SEP 16):Europe Weaker Because Of Brexit, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Warns. 7

EGE:160904:(09 SEP 16):Anti-Migrant Party seen beating Germany’s CDU in State election. 7

UK-WORLD:160905:(09 SEP 16):UK becomes world’s second biggest arms dealer 8

CV:160905:(09 SEP 16):At 3 canonisations a year since 1978, there’s spurt in Vatican-made saints. 8

AU-IS:160906:(09 SEP 16):Australian FM in Friendly Visit to Jerusalem.. 9

MSA-RU:160906:(09 SEP 16):Saudi Arabia, Russia sign oil pact, may limit output in future. 9

UK-MSA:160907:(09 SEP 16):Saudi Arabia makes plea for Britain not to ban arms sales. 10

RU-MIN:160906:(09 SEP 16):Russia So Far Delivered Over Half of Agreed Number of S-300s to Iran. 11

IS-RU:160906:(09 SEP 16):Moscow: Russia, Israel stand for consolidating anti-terrorism efforts. 11

IS-THA:160906:(09 SEP 16):IDF to Deploy Unmanned Ground Vehicles on Gaza Border 12

IS:160906:(09 SEP 16):Explosion rocks Israeli satellite industry. 12

RU-RUK:160906:(09 SEP 16):Russia launches massive military drills near Ukraine’s borders. 13

CV:160905:(09 SEP 16):Actually, Mother Teresa did NOT become a saint on Sunday. 13

IS-FEJ:160906:(09 SEP 16):Japan, Israel upgrade relations as Arab oil influence wanes. 14

IS:160906:(09 SEP 16):New rail line to connect high-tech Tel Aviv with holy Jerusalem.. 15

IS:160907:(09 SEP 16):Israel Posts Information and Schedule Regarding Upcoming Bidding Round for New Oil and Gas Exploration Licenses. 15

ECY-MEG:160907:(09 SEP 16):Cyprus and Egypt sign gas agreement 15

AU-UKBR:160907:(09 SEP 16):Aussies sense an opening as UK slams door on Europe. 16

IS-AS:160907:(09 SEP 16):Settlement hype, not ‘activity’, reaches new high. 17

EU-NATO:160907:(09 SEP 16):EU parks its tanks on Nato’s lawn with European army plan. 18

UKBR-EU:160907:(09 SEP 16):Brexit Could Harm Your Biggest Companies, U.K. Bankers Warn EU. 19

EGE:160907:(09 SEP 16):Germany’s War Record (I) 19

MSA-US:160907:(09 SEP 16):Obama administration arms sales offers to Saudi top $115 billion: report 21

EGE-TU:160909:(09 SEP 16):Germany to Invest in Turkish Military Base. 21

Why all the signs point to work permit system and ‘hard Brexit’ as Theresa May negotiates the UK-EU divorce. 22

TU-RU:160909:(09 SEP 16):Gazprom’s Turkish Stream Gains First Turkish Permits. 23

EU-US-UKBR:160909:(09 SEP 16):The EU’s retreat from US trade deal leaves the field to Britain. 24

EGE:160909:(09 SEP 16):Germany, Political Crisis and Superman. 25

IS-ME:160908:(09 SEP 16):’Israel poised to become key player in regional gas industry’ 27

MAR-MSY-RU-TU-US:160909:(09 SEP 16):Putin-Erdogan deal for Syria is ME exit for Obama. 27


Have nearly caught up, but decided to split document. Today begin journey home after a very profitable trip to Australia and New Zealand. Don

CM-EU:160822:(09 SEP 16):Europe’s Long War with Islam

Maudlin Economics 22-Aug-16


By George Friedman

Any discussion of Islamist terrorism in Europe and the refugee crisis has to be placed in a broader historical context. One way to approach this is to think about the Mediterranean Sea, which was central to the Roman Empire.

The Romans occupied both shores of the Mediterranean and created a single integrated political and economic system around it. As the Roman Empire declined, the system fractured. The general outcome was that Christianity was prevalent on the northern shore of the Mediterranean, and Islam became dominant on the southern shore.

Over time, both extended beyond the Mediterranean basin. Christianity extended to the east (into Russia) and north of the Alps (into Germany, Britain, and Scandinavia). Islam extended south (deeper into Africa) and east (into the Indian Ocean basin and the South China Sea).

But the Mediterranean remained the center of gravity and the flash point of their relationship, as it is today.

The Early Years of Christianity and Islam

The fourth century was a critical time for Christianity. Constantine converted to Christianity and declared Byzantium (today’s Istanbul) the new Rome. His ascent was bloody, and he used Christianity to hold together the remnants of the Roman Empire. One reason that he chose Byzantium as his seat was to try to control the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean under one set of beliefs.

From the beginning, Christianity was both a religion and a political force, though never united into a single entity. It was divided into regional churches with different doctrines. The primordial split was between the Roman church and the Orthodox churches of the east.

Muhammed founded Islam about 300 years later on the Arabian Peninsula. Islam was a political religion as well, uniting the faithful and the empire. Islam surged eastward into Persia and westward into the southern shore of the Mediterranean, where it supplanted most of the fragmented Christian regions.

Then a few centuries after Muhammed’s death, Islam fragmented into the Shiite regions of Persia and the Euphrates valley, and the Sunni regions in the west, the southern Mediterranean in particular.

Conquering Lands across the Sea

One of the most important sea lanes in the Mediterranean connected Tunisia and Sicily. The main land routes were along the eastern Mediterranean (through today’s Israel and Lebanon) into Christian Turkey. Another route was in the west, across the narrow Strait of Gibraltar (from today’s Morocco to the Iberian Peninsula).

By the early 700s, Muslims crossed into Spain. They began a conquest that was not ended by the Christians until the 1400s. The Muslims, having consolidated their control of Spain, pressed across the Pyrenees Mountains and moved toward the English Channel. Running on extended supply lines, they were defeated by forces under Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne.

That defeat put Islam on the defensive, fighting to hold Iberia. The advantage shifted to the Christians. Beginning in the 11th century, the Europeans launched a series of wars designed to force the Muslims back to the southeast. After the Crusades failed to hold the land bridge from Turkey to Egypt, the initiative shifted to the Muslims.

The Ottomans attacked and seized Constantinople in the 15th century. They proceeded to push northwest into Europe through a combination of direct combat and alliances with Christians at war with other Christians. They pushed west into the Mediterranean in collaboration with Venice.

The Ottomans and allies controlled the Balkans, seized Budapest, and drove west to Vienna, where they were defeated. Still, they controlled parts of the Balkans until after World War I, and the Muslim populations of Bosnia and Albania are remnants of their presence.

Wars Continue in the Modern Era

In the 19th century, the initiative swung back to the Europeans with attacks on North Africa. The French seized Algeria in 1827 and Tunisia in 1881. The British dominated Egypt in 1882 and then built the Suez Canal.

After World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Britain directly or indirectly dominated the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and Palestine. The French held Lebanon and Syria. Most important, the Europeans collectively dominated the entire Mediterranean Basin—for the first time returning to the geopolitics of ancient Rome.

When France and Italy were defeated and the British deeply weakened in World War II, the Europeans lost control of North Africa. They no longer had the power to control the region.

After the United States blocked a British-French-Israeli attempt to keep control of the Suez Canal in 1956, the Europeans ceased to be a factor in the southern Mediterranean Basin. But even without the Suez affair, the French and British were finished. The United States’ only real interest was in blocking the Soviet Union and taking over the British concern for Arabian oil.

The British defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I fragmented the heart of the Muslim World. That fragmentation gave way to massive disorder after the European mutual destruction in World War II.

Since then, the initiative has been shifting back to the Muslims. At first, they continued to behave as if Europe still dominated them. Then, they became caught up in the Cold War, manipulating the Americans and Soviets.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the underlying realities of the Islamic world began to re-emerge, just as the realities of southeastern Europe had re-emerged when the Ottomans weakened.

The Islamic World’s Resurgence Today

The Muslim world is still chaotic. Minimal American and Russian forces are struggling to maintain some sort of order in the eastern Mediterranean. However, the forces are trivial compared to the enormity of the situation.

This is one of the periodic shifts that take place between Islam and Christianity—between North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean on one side and Europe on the other. And for nearly 500 years, the Muslim advantage has been their control of Istanbul.

We are seeing a massive population movement triggered by the chaos in the Muslim world. The unrest comes from the collapse of European power in the region. It also stems from the conflict inherent in reconstructing regional political structures and dealing with internal battles.

The current turmoil is no different than the chaos in the Balkans that continued long after the Ottomans left. Such matters can take many decades or even centuries to sort out.

The terrorist attacks in Europe are also part of this process. Various strands of Islam are battling, and the battle will spill over into Europe, as it has for over a thousand years. Just as European quarrels have spilled over into North Africa.

The Thousand Years’ War

European unity was perhaps greatest when the Turks were at the gates of Vienna and southeastern Europe was under their heel. North Africa was most stable when the Europeans dominated it.

But the Europeans lack the strength and will to dominate North Africa, and the Muslims are capable of only pinprick attacks, called terrorism. The Ottoman occupation of Europe lasted four centuries, as did the Christian Crusades. The Mediterranean basin is not a place where things are settled quickly.

There is talk of a long war, lasting decades. This is a long war that has lasted 1,300 years. But it has not been simply war. There’s been economic cooperation, cross-religious political alliances, and enough complex corruption to fill many books.

It is an intimate relationship, bound together by the Mediterranean Sea. It is also a bad relationship, with both sides seeing themselves as the victim.

It is important to bear in mind the similarities between the two sides of the Mediterranean. Both Christianity and Islam are political religions, combining internal conflict with foreign adventures. Both are committed to their own beliefs and the falsehood of others.

Yet the two sides of the Mediterranean traded, made alliances across religious lines, and fought each other bitterly. Each feared the other. For Muslims, the memories of the Crusades still generate fear. For the Christians, there is a prayer going back to the Ottoman era and a visit by a comet: “Lord Save us from the Devil, the Turk and the Comet.”

Obviously, what I’ve laid out is an oversimplification of history, but it’s intended to show the interconnections. I am not making the case that understanding the other side will lead to peace.

On the contrary, I am reminding readers of the constancy of the conflict between Christianity and Islam. And in any conflict, understanding both yourself and the other is the key to survival.

This is one of the oldest wars still active in the world—the war between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. It was old when Hannibal left Carthage to go north and overthrow the Romans, and the Romans came back to destroy Carthage.

Nothing about this is new, and both sides have given as good as they got. But we are in a period when the initiative is shifting—this time away from Europe to the Muslim world. Europe has lost its grip on North Africa and the Levant, and the first population movements and small attacks are occurring. It will not stay this way.


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CM-EU:160903:(09 SEP 16):Europe’s 1,000-Year War of Islam

The Trumpet 03-Sep-16 [It drew my attention to the previous article, quoting bits from it and gave this conclusion. Don]


Today, Muslims are emboldened and possess more influence than ever. Now there are hundreds of Muslim clerics … many in Western states such as Britain, preaching war-mongering messages of revenge for what the Catholics did during the Crusades. …

The Crusades created a profound and lasting depth of hatred among Muslims for the Catholic Church. Today, a newly emboldened and radical brand of Islam is seeking revenge against the Vatican and the Catholic Church. …

Radical Islam—led by Iran and driven by a crusading spirit—is pushing and prodding Catholic Europe and the Vatican. That pushing and prodding is now resurrecting the spirit of the Crusades in … the Vatican and Europe.


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IS-WORLD:160901:(09 SEP 16):Israel Courts Foreign Money in Effort to Become Gas Exporter

New York Times 01-Sep-16


Israel’s energy minister laid on the charm as he spoke to a few dozen oil executives, contractors and analysts in a crowded hotel conference room about the country’s natural gas prospects.

He crowed that the country could one day be a top supplier to Europe, while explaining how multinationals in other industries were already enamored of Israel.

“It is not enough to have a lot of potential,” said the minister, Yuval Steinitz, who was kicking off a road show for energy investors on Thursday at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in London. “From now on it is my job to make Israel very attractive for new exploration, for new investments, for newcomers.”

Israel is courting international money as it tries to nurture a fledgling gas industry and evolve into an energy exporter. For the first time, the country is offering drilling leases in the Mediterranean waters off its coast, testing investors’ appetite and its own energy ambitions.

It is a major shift for a country that closed its territorial waters for the last four years while the government wrestled with how to regulate the new industry. Although the regulatory issues are largely resolved, Israel may get a chilly investment reception, given the weakness in the energy markets, the country’s political risk and the general uncertainty in the region.

Israel “is not a straightforward place to be going in and doing stuff,” said Trevor Sikorski, an analyst at Energy Aspects, a market research firm based in London.

An up-and-comer in the energy landscape, Israel is trying to get to the next level.

Mr. Steinitz, the energy minister, estimates that Israeli waters could hold 75 trillion cubic feet of gas. If that much extractable gas were found, Israel’s reserves would be in the same ballpark as those of energy powerhouses like Norway and Canada.

Two major finds by Noble Energy and its Israeli partners have proved the existence of substantial resources. One field, Tamar, now supplies the fuel for a sizable portion of Israeli electricity production.

“We are not selling garbage here,” said Nati Birenboim of the Tamuz Group, based in Tel Aviv, which advises investors on Israeli energy projects. “We totally believe, following the last Israeli big discoveries, that the potential is huge.”

Now, Israel is hoping to replicate the recent successes of its neighbor Egypt.

A longstanding oil and gas producer, Egypt is attracting major new investment at a time when many oil and gas companies are throttling back globally because of weak energy prices. Both BP and the Italian company ENI have multibillion-dollar gas projects underway in Egypt.

A huge new gas find by ENI off the coast of Egypt has spurred interest in the whole region. Exxon Mobil, ENI and France’s Total all recently submitted applications for exploration acreage in Cypriot waters.

“All around the region you are seeing activity,” said Brenda Shaffer, a visiting researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, who has advised the Israeli government on energy. “Israel doesn’t want to miss the boat.”

Israel’s energy ambitions, in part, are commercial. The natural gas industry has already helped reduce the country’s dependence on imported fuels that cause more pollution, like coal and oil. The government also wants to expand the field of players in the industry, which is now dominated by Noble Energy, a midsize American company.

There is also a geopolitical dimension. The country has the potential to become an exporter to Europe, as well as Turkey and Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan, providing at least a modest alternative to Russia. The United States government has helped facilitate this regional commerce as a way to encourage coordination and cooperation between former enemies.

“The United States believes that the discoveries of offshore gas in the Eastern Mediterranean present an opportunity for economic prosperity and regional security,” said Amos J. Hochstein, the State Department’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. “That is why we have been actively engaged to help overcome obstacles to achieve this goal.”

But Israel may find it challenging to attract investors.

The environment has broadly cooled, as gas prices in Europe have dropped more than 50 percent in the last four years. Major oil companies, with revenue slashed, are being pickier about the projects they finance. And players with projects in the Arab countries may be politically wary of investing in Israel.

“I think there will be interest, but it won’t likely come from the majors due to political considerations,” said Martijn Murphy, an analyst at the Edinburgh energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, referring to the largest oil companies.

Although midsize companies may be a more likely bet, the costs — $100 million or more for drilling wells in deep areas — may prove daunting. Adding to the hurdles, operators may need to find new destinations for the gas, assuming they find some. Demand in Israel, while growing, is still relatively modest.

Despite the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Israel has been a difficult place for oil and gas companies to work. Noble found a giant field called Leviathan in 2010. Since then, it has encountered long delays, mostly arising from concerns that Noble had a chokehold on Israel’s gas output and could charge high prices.

The company and the government reached a settlement last year that involved reducing some of Noble’s stakes in Israeli gas fields. Noble is back at work on Leviathan. But the company has yet to lock up the export deals that would allow it to proceed with the project, which is estimated to be worth $4 billion.

The going “hasn’t been that smooth in Israel,” said Mr. Sikorski, the gas analyst. That may weigh against the country for investors that “have lots of stuff to do and limited capital.”


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IS-EU:1609Israel seeks new gas routes to Europe after fixing red tape

Daily Mail 02-Sep-16


Israel has overcome delays to the development of its offshore natural gas fields and wants to establish at least two export routes to Western Europe, its energy minister told Reuters.

Major gas discoveries over the past seven years brought Israel into the world of hydrocarbons, but political hurdles and red tape have stymied new developments and exploration.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz sought to reassure investors on the first stop of a roadshow for the country’s maiden offshore exploration licensing round.

“Israel is back in business after a few years of delay,” Steinitz said at the event in London.

“The regulation is fixed, generally speaking, and we also guarantee that if there are changes, we will keep the general framework and profitability of all projects,” he told Reuters, on the sidelines of the roadshow.

The new regulatory framework guarantees Israel would receive 540 billion cubic metres of gas over the next 35 years, but any additional volumes can be exported, Steinitz said.

While Israel plans to initially export gas to neighbouring Jordan, Egypt and Turkey, it is also examining three options to access the Western European market – via existing liquefied natural gas terminals in Egypt, a pipeline running to Turkey or a pipeline to Greece through Cyprus.

“All of them are under serious examination and we already have some dialogue. At the end of the day I want to establish at least two, if not all three options. If we discover new fields those projects will be justified,” Steinitz said.

Israel and Turkey, which recently mended ties after a six-year rift, hope to complete a gas pipeline linking the two countries within three years, he said.

Initial geological studies indicated that it is “highly probable” that there are around 2,200 bcm of gas to be discovered on top of some 900 bcm already found in fields such as the giant Tamar and Leviathan deposits.

Europe consumes around 420 bcm each year.

Israel plans to offer 24 exploration blocks in its maritime territory in a bidding round that is expected to be launched in November.


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UK-UKBR:160902:(09 SEP 16):BRITAIN’S ECONOMY BOOMS: New figures show RECORD RISE in manufacturing results

The Express 02-Sep-16


BRITAIN’s Brexit boom has been confirmed in startling new figures which have seen a record rise in manufacturing results.

Manufacturing in the UK is surpassing expectations

The closely watched Markit/ CIPS UK Manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) has dealt a humiliating blow to the Remain campaign’s Project Fear predictions, hitting 53.3 for August, up from 48.2 in July and well above economists’ expectations of 49.

The increase is the highest month on month rise in the PMI’s 25 year history.

In contrast, disastrous eurozone manufacturing figures appear to underline that Britain is releasing itself from the EU’s economic deadweight.

Germany’s PMI rating fell to a three-month low at 53.6 while France hit a two-month low at 48.3 and Italy a 20-month low at 49.8 as the EU’s biggest economies continue to struggle.

The health of Britain’s booming economy post the Brexit vote was also revealed in the number of workless households being down by almost 200,000 in the last year according to official figures.

The so-called workless household total was 3.1 million in the quarter to June, down by 189,000 compared to a year ago.

The other large economies in Europe continue to struggle economically

The figures saw the FTSE 250 – seen as the main indicator of the strength of the economy – leap by just over 200 points yesterdayTHURS before consolidating at 116.86 points up on the day at 17,849.63 well above its level before the EU referendum.

Ukip said it confirmed that the claims made by the Remain campaign about Britain suffering a depression after voting for Brexit and needing the EU to support its economy have now been proven to be completely wrong.

Ukip small business spokeswoman Margot Parker said: “In the end the truth will out. Britain is working hard and open for business, whereas it is becoming clear that the Eurozone nations are struggling.

UKIP believe this shows that the UK’s decision to leave the EU was the correct one

“This is clear evidence that those of us who believe in Brexit and the boost that it will deliver to UK businesses seem to have been a little more accurate than the fear mongers who supported remain.”

A bullish Prime Minister Theresa May and her Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged to strike the best EU deal possible for business, on tour of West Midlands incl Jaguar Landrover.

Ahead of the crucial meeting with the government heads of the G20 in China this weekend, Mrs May said: “I’m very clear that we are going to be working to get the best deal for Britain when we come out of the EU.

“British people voted to ensure the freedom of movement doesn’t carry on as it has done in the past, and we also want to ensure we get the best deal for trade in goods and services.

“And the message of Jaguar Land Rover is of British success, British manufacturing success, British exporting success, and that’s the message we’ll be taking to the G20, that Britain is open for business and we’re open for business around the world.”

Mr Hammond said: “This Government is committed to building an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. One aspect of this is building on our productive, open and competitive business environment, as part of our industrial strategy.

UK manufacturers are seeing an increased demand for their products

“As an outward-looking country we will continue to attract companies to invest and grow in the UK, while supporting British businesses like JLR and the hard-working people who make them great.”

Meanwhile, on a visit to Belfast, new Brexit Secretary David Davis said the government was aiming for tariff free trade with the EU once Britain was free of Brussels rule.

But he warned the country has to take control of its borders and control the number of people coming in.

He said: “What we will seek to do is ideally to have a tariff-free access, but this is a matter of negotiation, and we will be negotiating over an issue which I suspect we will find is in the interest of the other members of the EU as well as us, to get a good trading relationship in the long run.”

Mr Davis was in Belfast for talks with Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in the June 23 referendum.

The resurgence in manufacturing was driven by a rebound in manufacturing output and incoming orders, with new business seeing an upturn in the UK and abroad.

The fall in the value of sterling, which was over-valued on the international markets before the eU referendum, made British products cheaper, boosting export orders to a 26-month high, with increased demand from the US, Europe, China, South East Asia, the Middle East and Norway.

David Noble, group chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said the report showed “the Brexit brakes are off”.

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the manufacturing data adds to the picture of improved sentiment since the immediate fallout of the referendum result.

He said: “There’s still a long way to go until Britain leaves the EU, and in the meantime businesses still need to make money, so they can’t just sit on their hands.”

He said the sharp improvement in calls into question the Bank of England’s much criticised decision to cut interest rates from 0.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent at the beginning of August.

“The gathering pile of robust economic data might start to dissuade policy makers from any further monetary easing,” he added.

In a further sign of confidence in a post-Brexit Britain, one of the Ukip leadership favourites, Lisa Duffy, has announced that if she wins the race to replace Nigel Farage she will launch a campaign for a quick hard exit from the EU.

Under her leadership, UKIP will campaign for the government to adopt Tory MP John Redwood’s plan to repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act and leave immediately – the fastest and most reliable way of implementing Brexit.


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EGE-RU:160903:(09 SEP 16):Germany Gets Friendly With Russia

The Trumpet 03-Sep-16


Germany could soon thaw relations with Russia, the Local reported in an article titled “Merkel Offers Russia a Lifting of Sanctions—If It Behaves”:

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that she has “the very greatest interest in stopping sanctions” against Russia, Reuters [Deutschland] reports.

In further evidence that Germany is seeking to follow a path of rapprochement with Moscow, Merkel made clear she was prepared to push through a relaxation of EU sanctions against Russia almost immediately.“As soon as we see progress in the Minsk agreement, we will loosen the sanctions,” Merkel told party colleagues at an event in northeastern Germany on Monday evening.

Her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also signalled that he favored a rapprochement with Russia, calling for the two nations to undergo “a phase of confrontation and growing tensions, back to a reliable understanding of common security.”


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UKBR:160903:(09 SEP 16):Brexit gives us a chance to finish the Thatcher revolution

Financial Times 03-Sep-16


The economic gains from leaving the EU will be substantial, writes Nigel Lawson

Despite being bombarded with an unprincipled scare campaign about the alleged disastrous economic consequences of Brexit, the British people chose to vote decisively for the UK to leave the EU on political grounds. To put it simply, they chose to become a self-governing democracy.

This was perfectly logical, as the EU itself is a political and not an economic project. And the project is to create a full-blooded political union, a federal united states of Europe. There is nothing secret, or in any way disreputable, about this. But it is not what the British people want. And as Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, wrote recently: “Why would you want to be a member of a tennis club if you do not play tennis and indeed actively dislike the game, simply in order to play a game of bridge once a month?”

Happily, however, there are significant economic gains to be had from Brexit, too, provided we play our cards right.

I was a member of the Thatcher government of the 1980s that transformed the British economy, an achievement acknowledged throughout the world at the time. It was done by a thoroughgoing programme of supply side reform, of which judicious deregulation was a critically important part.

But it was only indigenous UK regulation that we could repeal or reform. And increasingly we are bound by a growing corpus of EU regulation which, so long as we remain in the bloc, we cannot touch. Brexit gives us the opportunity to address this; to make the UK the most dynamic and freest country in the whole of Europe: in a word, to finish the job that Margaret Thatcher started.

This has clear implications for how the UK should set about implementing the Brexit decision. At the present time, all the signs are that we are going about it in precisely the wrong way. The focus seems to be all about negotiating some sort of trade deal with the EU, in which we have some kind of special relationship with the so-called single market. That is not negotiable. Nor is there any need for it. If you chart the course of the EU economy as a whole, both before and after the advent of the so-called single market, it is clear that it has brought no discernible benefit.

Our starting point needs to be that we seek the best possible relationship with the peoples and governments of Europe, against whom we have no grievance and a multiplicity of mutual interests. So far as the single market is concerned, we must respect the EU doctrine that to remain a member in any shape or form we would have to accept the freedom of EU citizens, beyond those already here, to come and live and work in the UK. That is something the British people have, understandably, made clear is not on, so we must accept that we will be outside the so-called single market.

That is scarcely a disaster. The rest of the world is outside the single market, and trades happily and profitably with the member nations of the EU. You do not need a trade agreement in order to trade. Unsurprisingly, even now, our trade with the rest of the world, with most of whom we have no trade agreement, is greater than, and growing faster than, our trade with the EU. We have always been, and remain, a full member of the World Trade Organisation in our own right.

While PM grapples with the Europe question, many domestic policies appear to be stuck

The banks may be concerned about exit from the single market, and there may indeed be some complications for them. But the position of London as one of the only two truly global financial centres in the world, and the only one in the European timezone, is unassailable. And they have far more to fear from being inside it, particularly from further European legislation on banking union and the financial transactions tax.

A prolonged period of uncertainty can only be damaging to British business and the British economy. Following the early invocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, accompanied by repealing the 1972 European Communities Act, if necessary with a delayed commencement date to be determined by parliament in due course, we need to complete the Brexit process as soon as possible. By abandoning the chimera of trade negotiations, a speedy process becomes practicable.

Instead of wasting time on a futile and wholly misguided attempt to secure a trade agreement with the EU, the government needs to focus on how we propose to conduct ourselves as a self-governing nation outside the bloc. A whole range of issues need to be addressed, from the precise nature of our immigration controls (which need to be a single system applying to Europeans and non-Europeans alike) to how we will support our farmers following our exit from the Common Agricultural Policy.

There are also some issues that will involve bilateral agreements with individual European countries, such as over security co-operation and (with the Irish Republic) over our land border with the EU.

Above all, on the economic front, a study needs to be undertaken of the vast corpus of EU regulation to which we are presently subject, to decide which we wish to retain, which to amend (and how), and which to scrap altogether.

There are other economic gains to be secured from Brexit, from not having to pay our net annual subscription of some £10bn and rising to our newfound ability to strike trade deals with the faster-growing countries of the world. But it is the benefit of intelligent deregulation, something that cannot be captured in any theoretical economic model but which we demonstrated in the 1980s, that offers the prospect of the greatest economic gain. And this is entirely in our own hands, and not a matter of negotiations with others. That is what we need to be focused on now.


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UKBR-EU:160903:(09 SEP 16):Europe Weaker Because Of Brexit, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Warns

Huffington Post 03-Sep-16


‘Individual countries cannot affect international politics.’

Brexit has weakened Europe, Russia’s deputy prime minister has warned.

Arkady Dvorkovich insisted he would rather the EU had remained stronger.

“The British decision to leave Europe made Europe a little bit weaker at this point. The whole process of getting away from Europe is a difficult one and creates more uncertainties,” Dvorkovich said.

“For Russia, it is important that Europe is strong, we don’t need weak partners. We need strong partners to go forward and provide for better future for Russian and Euopean peoples.

Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Russia’s deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich says Europe is weaker because of Brexit

“Strong politics makes Europe really big player in the international landscape and individual countries cannot affect international politics in the same way that a united Europe can do,” he told BBC Newsnight.

Dvorkovich denied claims by David Cameron and others that Russian president Vladimir Putin wanted Brexit in order to weaken the EU and break sanctions against his country.

“That’s just not true. First, we do not have any particular opinion whether UK should stay in Europe or leave it. It’s a sovereign affair of the United Kingdom, and the rest of Europe, Russia is not a player in this game.

“Secondly, sanctions are not because of British politics, mostly it’s the influence of the United States, and overall attitude of European governments towards events around Ukraine and in Ukraine. We believe it’s the wrong attitude,” he said.


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EGE:160904:(09 SEP 16):Anti-Migrant Party seen beating Germany’s CDU in State election

Vatican Radio 04-Sep-16


Voters in a state in north-eastern Germany voted Sunday in an election that was seen as a serious challenge for Chancellor Angela Merkel as an anti-migration and anti-Islam party was expected to perform better than her Christian Democratic Union party (CDU).

Sunday’s poll in the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is one of the biggest tests to date of Chancellor Merkel’s migrant and refugee policies.

Her parliamentary constituency is in the region with 1.3 million eligible voters and losing here will put Merkel in a weaker position ahead of national elections next year

Opinion polls suggested that the three-year-old anti-migration Alternative for Germany (AFD) could overtake Merkel’s conservative CDU party in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.

Surveys show the German leader’s popularity has declined after she took a decision that led to more than 1 million migrants fleeing war and poverty being registered in her country in 2015. That’s good news for AFD’s main candidate Leif-Erik Holm.

“I hope we will become the strongest party” he told reporters.”We hear many signals from many families and companies. They say yes, yes, we will all vote for the AfD. I am hoping for a result well into the 20s [percentage points],” the candidate added.


If confirmed, it will put Merkel in difficult position as the national poll is expected in September 2017.

Mecklenburg has been run for a decade by the parties that currently govern Germany. The centre-left Social Democrats lead the regional government, with Merkel’s Christian Democrats as their junior partner.

The current state’s prime minister Erwin Sellering made a last appeal to voters not to vote for AfD.

He says: “I have always said don’t give your vote away because they are the once that don’t want to work with us. They want to feel frustration and protest.”

Sunday’s election is the first of five state votes due before the national poll. The next election is in Berlin on September 18th.


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UK-WORLD:160905:(09 SEP 16):UK becomes world’s second biggest arms dealer

PressTV 05-Sep-16 [Irainian – hence bias! Don.]


The UK government has become the world’s second biggest arms dealer, with bulk of its weapons fueling deadly conflicts in the Middle East, according to official data.

According to latest data by the UK Trade and Investment, a government body that promotes British exports overseas, over the last 10 years the UK’s average arms sales exceeds that of Russia, China, or France and is only second to the United States.

According to a joint analysis by The Independent and Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), between 2010-2015, the British government has sold £10 billion in arms licenses to at least 39 of the 51 countries that have been ranked “not free” on the US-based Freedom House’s “Freedom in the world” report.

London has gone a step further and sold £7.9 billion worth of arms deals with 22 of the 30 countries that have been blacklisted on the UK government’s own human rights watch list.

Interestingly, about two-thirds of the exports over the five-year period were destined to the Middle East, where many countries have been ravaged by conflicts resulting from Western intervention.

“The UK is one of the world’s most successful defense exporters, averaging second place in the global rankings on a rolling ten-year basis, making it Europe’s leading defense exporter in the period,” the government organization boasted in its report.

The Foreign Office maintains a “human rights priority countries” list which includes countries that it deems as having “the worst, or greatest number of, human rights violations.”

A Watchkeeper drone made by the British arms producer Thales.

Saudi Arabia, Israel and Bahrain were some of the customers on the controversial government list.

According to the Independent, Saudis have received British bombs, missiles, and fighter jets, which it has been using in its military aggression against Yemen, which has killed about 10,000 people since it began in March 2015.

Last year alone, London approved the sale of more than £3 billion worth of weapons to the Riyadh regime.

The UK has provided the Israeli regime with drone components and targeting equipment.

Bahrain, another repressive Arab monarchy, has also received machine guns from the UK, along with special police training that it has actively been using to curb a years-long popular uprising against the ruling Al Khalifa family.

“These terrible figures expose the hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy,” said Andrew Smith of CAAT.

“These regimes aren’t just buying weapons, they’re also buying political support and legitimacy. How likely is the UK to act against human rights violations in these countries when it is also profiting from them,” he asked.


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CV:160905:(09 SEP 16):At 3 canonisations a year since 1978, there’s spurt in Vatican-made saints

Hindustan Times, New Delhi 05-Sep-16 [For all the charts see article: Don.]


Becoming a Catholic saint today is much easier than it was at any point of time in the history of papacy, courtesy a far liberalised Church, according to conclusions drawn from a Harvard research paper.

There had been 434 beatifications (blessed) and canonisations (sainthood) in the last 35 years—an average of 12 per year—compared to 259 in a 393-year period of 1585-1978, when the annual average was just 0.65.

The maths apart, sainthood has been expanding along another path: geography. More and more people from outside Italy/Western Europe have been anointed as saints in the past three-and-a-half decades by the Rome-headquartered Church, which is one of the world’s oldest religious institutions and has more than 1.27 billion members across continents.

Before we delve into finer details, here is an introduction to the saint-making process and also some basic assumptions for this analysis:


Beatification is a step in the process of Canonisation. By it, the Pope allows public veneration of the in the local Church, within the religious congregation with which he or she was associated, and in other places by those who receive such permission. A person who has been beatified is addressed as ‘Blessed’.

Canonisation is the act by which the Pope declares that a person practised heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, is with God in heaven and is to be venerated through the whole Church.

You need to perform at least one miracle for beatification and another one for canonisation. A miracle is an extraordinary event, which is scientifically inexplicable and, in a cause for canonisation. It is directly attributed to the person who is being canonised. In the causes of saints, the miracles investigated are usually cures, because they are more easily documented.


For the purpose of this analysis, we are considering a period starting from 1585 to this year. Before 1585, papal approval was not required for canonisation and beatification.

Also for this analysis, we are going to ignore mass canonisations and include only individual canonisations. The numbers boil down to 693 beatifications and 290 canonisations in the above-mentioned period.

Now let us take a look at the pope-wise break-up of canonisations and beatifications.

As can be seen from the graphic, the number of saints and blessed grew manifold in the last three-and-a-half decades compared to the previous 400 years.

About 37% of all beatifications and 43% of all canonisation in the history of papacy happened in the last 35 years.

This was achieved in the recent years, following an alteration in the rules of making saints and the blessed. While the authorities brought down the number of miracles required for the process, they ignored in a lot of cases the waiting period—the number of years after one’s death, before which they can’t be considered for sainthood.

Now let us take a look at pope-wise number of beatifications per year.

Number of beatifications per year

As can be clearly seen, the rate of beatification hardly rose above 2 in the 400 years. Then we saw a spurt in it over the last 35 years. As also seen, the curve shows a rising trend that points to a much-higher number of the ‘blessed’ in the following years.

Number of canonisations per year

This graphic mirrors the results of the previous graphic. As seen above, there is a steep rise in the number of saints anointed each year. Also, a rising curve points to a future, where expect more saints and blessed can be expected.

Let us take a look the number of saints and blessed geographically. The place was decided according to the place of death of each person.

Region-wise saints

As seen from the graph, a chunk of the saints and the blessed have come from Italy, while a meagre 2% belong to Asia. But this trend is clearly changing, according to the initially-mentioned Harvard research paper titled “Economics of Sainthood” by Prof Robert J Barro.

According to him, through the 1970s, blessed persons were predominantly from Western Europe (including Italy). However, at least since 1980, there has been a clear globalization of the process. For example, from 1980 to 2009, the shares of beatifications were thus: 10% Eastern Europe, 3.5% Asia, 1.9% Africa, 10% Latin America and 5% North America.


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AU-IS:160906:(09 SEP 16):Australian FM in Friendly Visit to Jerusalem

Int. Chr. Emb. Jerusalem 06-Sep-16


Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in Israel Sunday, telling the The Jerusalem Post “We call for the peace negotiations to recommence, and likewise we publicly and privately say that any unilateral action that is seen as damaging or impeding the peace process should be called what it is…that includes the unilateral actions on the part of the Palestinians to achieve statehood. It includes the violence and the attacks, and it also includes the settlements. So on both sides there are issues that are likely to be seen as hurdles to recommencing the peace process.”


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MSA-RU:160906:(09 SEP 16):Saudi Arabia, Russia sign oil pact, may limit output in future

Reuters 06-Sep-16


Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed on Monday to cooperate in world oil markets, saying they will not act immediately but could limit output in the future, sending prices higher on hopes the two top oil producers would work together to tackle a global glut.

The joint statement was signed by the country’s energy ministers in China on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit and followed a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the two countries were moving toward a strategic energy partnership and that a high level of trust would allow them to address global challenges. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the agreement would also encourage other producers to cooperate.

Oil prices soared almost 5 percent ahead of a news conference by the two ministers, but pared gains to trade up 2 percent by 1130 GMT as the agreement yielded no immediate action.

“There is no need now to freeze production … We have time to take this kind of decision,” Falih said.

“Freezing production is one of the preferred possibilities, but it does not have to happen specifically today.”

Even if the Monday statement was short on action, it marks a significant development in the Russia-Saudi relationship. The two countries have been effectively fighting a proxy war in Syria and Moscow also sees itself as a big ally of Iran – Riyadh’s arch-rival in the Middle East.


The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will hold informal talks in Algeria later this month, and is next scheduled to meet officially in Vienna in November.

Several OPEC producers have called for an output freeze to rein in the glut, which arose as supplies from high-cost producers such as the United States soared.

The price collapse of the past two years has hit the budgets of major producers such as Russia and Saudi Arabia while leading to unrest and social tensions is smaller producing nations such as Venezuela and Nigeria.

OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia has also signalled willingness to cooperate as it faces budget pressures and seeks to float a stake in state-owned producer Aramco.

Venezuela, which has consistently pushed for a deal to boost prices, hailed the agreement as “an important step in coordinating joint action between the biggest OPEC member and one of the biggest non-OPEC producers”.

Venezuela has presented an “alternative proposal” to be considered at the upcoming Algeria meeting that would help “stabilize both the volume of supplies to markets and the fair price for producers,” the Oil Ministry said in a statement.

The statement did not offer further details on the proposal.

Any deal between OPEC and non-OPEC producer Russia would be the first in 15 years since Moscow agreed to cut output in tandem with the cartel at the turn of the millennium, although Russia never followed through on that promise.

Novak said he was open to ideas on what cut-off period to use if producer countries decided to freeze output.

If production is frozen at early-2015 levels, it would effectively mean an output cut as most producers – including Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq and Iran – have steeply boosted production since then.

Novak said outright oil production cuts may also be discussed.


In April, Russia was prepared to freeze output together with OPEC, but talks collapsed after Riyadh said it would agree to a deal only if Iran – OPEC’s third-largest producer – participated.

Iran has argued that it needs to regain market share lost during years of Western sanctions, which were lifted in January.

Putin said last week that a new deal on oil output could involve some compromise on Iranian output.

“We believe that the oil market rebalancing has been rather delayed … And certainly joint actions which were considered at the beginning of the year, including a freeze, could have drawn much nearer the date of rebalancing of the respective markets,” Novak said on Monday.

“We are ready, if there is such a decision, to join” an oil output freeze, TASS news agency cited Novak as saying.

Oil prices collapsed to as low as $27 per barrel earlier this year from as high as $115 in mid-2014, but have since recovered to around $50.

“The market is getting better and we noticed that the prices reflect this (improvement)”, said Falih. “A coordinated and appropriate, collective decision on production will help bring balance and reduce inventories in a more timely manner”.


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UK-MSA:160907:(09 SEP 16):Saudi Arabia makes plea for Britain not to ban arms sales

The Guardian 07-Sep-16


Saudi foreign minister to brief MPs after controversy over Yemen conflict and questions in Commons about adherence to international humanitarian law

The Saudi foreign minister is to brief British MPs personally to urge them not to ban UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in light of UN claims that British weapons were used to conduct indiscriminate attacks in Yemen on hospitals, markets and cities.

The Westminster briefing by Adel Al-Jubeir on Wednesday comes hours before the select committee on the control of arms exports meets to decide whether to call for a ban on arms sales, a move that would represent a seismic shift in Middle East policy.

The foreign office minister, Tobias Ellwood, on Monday apologised to the Commons for inaccurate answers given by ministers. They said the government had assessed that the Saudis had not breached international humanitarian law in Yemen. He said the error, acknowledged just before the summer parliamentary recess in July, was not part of a plot to mislead of MPs.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, also published a written statement to MPs insisting arms sales to Saudi Arabia could continue because there was no evidence of a serious risk that the international humanitarian law would be violated if the UK continued to supply arms.

Ellwood, brought to the Commons by the Speaker, John Bercow, to clarify the government position in light of Johnson’s statement, said it was not for the UK government to conclude whether individual bombing incidents by the Saudis represented breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL), but instead to “take an overall view of the approach and attitude by Saudi Arabia to international humanitarian law”.

He said: “We are not acting to determine whether a sovereign state has or has not acted in the breach of IHL but instead … we are acting to make an overall judgment.” It would not be possible for the UK to take a view on every bombing incident in a conflict to which the UK was not a party, Ellwood said.

In his written parliamentary statement, Johnson said: “All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.

“The key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to IHL is whether there is a clear risk that those weapons might be used in a commission of a serious violation of IHL.

“Having regard to all the information available to us, we assess that this test has not been met.”

He added that he believed Saudi Arabia was best placed to investigate any allegations made against it of breaches of humanitarian law.

In August a Saudi-led Joint Investigation Assessment team published a resume of an internal Saudi investigation into eight controversial bombing raids in Yemen, including attacks on hospitals, markets and cities. That inquiry exonerated the raids, largely on the grounds of acting on the basis of intelligence that enemy forces were in the area.

Labour MPs described the contradictions in the government position as Kafkaesque, while the charity Oxfam said the government had a simple choice between complying with international law or remaining party to a war that has led to the death of thousands of Yemeni civilians.

Stephen Doughty, a Labour MP on the arms controls committee, said: “Ministers continue to be all over the place on whether violations of international humanitarian law have occurred in Yemen in light of Saudi Arabia admitting serious mistakes last month and that hospitals and World Food Programme convoys had been hit.

“It is simply not good enough for ministers to rely on Saudi assurances on such serious matters where civilians have been targeted.”

Hilary Benn, the former shadow foreign secretary, called on the government “to suspend sales until it had made a proper assessment and can explain to MPs why it believes IHL has not been breached in Yemen when the UN clearly says it has”.

He added the government had given no satisfactory explanation as to why it had consistently failed to provide accurate answers or explain why once errors were identified, ministers took 27 days to inform MPs of them.

Ellwood conceded the Saudis had moved slowly to conduct the investigations and it would be a major step forward if the country signed the international treaty banning the use of cluster munitions. He said a future Saudi inquiry would look into whether it had been using cluster munitions in its bombing campaign, as has been alleged by some charities.

Defending the Saudi response to criticisms of its campaign, Ellwood said: “It was new territory for Saudi Arabia and a conservative nation was not used to such exposure.”

In a sign that the dissent was spreading to Conservative benches, five Tory MPs also criticised the Saudi approach, but Ellwood said errors in targeting were always possible in the midst of thousands of air sorties.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade said the UK had licensed more than £3.3bn worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015.

The Saudi campaign is designed to drive back Houthi resistance to the elected government of Yemen and has the support of UN resolutions.


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RU-MIN:160906:(09 SEP 16):Russia So Far Delivered Over Half of Agreed Number of S-300s to Iran

Sputnik 06-Mar-16


In August, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said that Tehran was expecting Moscow to fulfill its commitments on the deliveries of S-300 air defense systems within September, adding that the main part of the batch had arrived in Iran.

“We have delivered half already, even more,” Kozhin said.

The $800-million Moscow-Tehran contract to deliver Russian-made S-300 air defense systems to Iran was signed in 2007.

In 2011, Iran sued Russia in the Geneva Arbitration Court after Moscow suspended the contract in 2010, citing a UN Security Council resolution that placed an arms embargo on Tehran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted the S-300 delivery ban in April 2015, shortly after the P5+1 group of international negotiators and Iran reached a framework nuclear agreement to remove all economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for its pledge to ensure that all nuclear research in the country should serve exclusively peaceful purposes.


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IS-RU:160906:(09 SEP 16):Moscow: Russia, Israel stand for consolidating anti-terrorism efforts

Tass 06-Sep-16


During the detailed conversation the sides discussed a range of issues of Russian-Israeli agenda

Russia and Israel stand for consolidation of efforts to combat terrorism in the Middle East and in the world in general, the Russian foreign ministry said on Monday after talks between Russian president’s special envoy for the Middle East and African countries and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Russian diplomat was received by the Israeli prime minister in line with an earlier agreement.

“During the detailed, confidential conversation, the sides discussed a range of issues of the bilateral Russian-Israeli agenda,” the ministry said. “It was stated with satisfaction that multi-faceted cooperation between Russia and Israel is developing dynamically, including intensive multi-level political dialogue, mutual commitment to further development of trade-and-economic and investment partnership, enlivening of humanitarian, cultural and other ties between the two countries.”

“Special focus was made on the task of consolidation of efforts in the interests of efficient struggle against the universal terrorist threat in the Middle East and in the world in general,” the Russian foreign ministry noted. “While exchanging views on the current Middle East problems, priority attention was focused on the prospects for the Israeli-Palestinian settlement and the role Russia is playing in promoting comprehensive peace and reliable security in the Middle East.”

A schedule of government-level visits was in focus of talks between Russian president’s special envoy for the Middle East and African countries and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Dore Gold, the Russian foreign ministry said on Monday.

The sides “discussed current issues of the Russia-Israel political dialogue, including in the context of the implementation of the relevant plan of inter-ministerial consultations,” the ministry said.

“Special attention was focused on an exchange of opinions on regional problems, including development of the military-political and humanitarian situation in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, and the situation on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” the ministry said. “The sides also discussed a schedule and the process of preparations for the planned Russia-Israel contacts and exchange of visits at the governmental and inter-ministerial levels.”.


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IS-THA:160906:(09 SEP 16):IDF to Deploy Unmanned Ground Vehicles on Gaza Border

Israel Defense 06-Sep-16


The UGVs would reportedly become operational next year. They would first be deployed on the Gaza border and eventually on Israel’s other borders with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon

According to a report on, Israel is planning to bolster its high-tech arsenal by deploying fully autonomous military vehicles along the country’s dangerous border with Gaza.

Working with the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems, IDF has equipped Ford F-350 pickup trucks with specialized remote driving technology. The trucks, dubbed Border Protector Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), are also fitted with four driving cameras and a 360-degree observation camera to help operators identify threats. At the moment, the vehicles are unarmed.

Plans are also in place to add a weapon to the vehicle. “We think at the beginning of next year, we will get a machine gun on the vehicle that will be operated from a control room – the machine gun will not be autonomous,” said an IDF official.

The UGV replaces the semi-autonomous Guardium vehicle that was deployed by Israeli forces in 2009. “The Guardium was unable to navigate obstacles by itself, but the UGV will be able to,” explained the official.

The Israeli Army wants to eventually deploy the UGVs on Israel’s other borders with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. UGV testing began in July 2015, and the trucks became operational in February


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IS:160906:(09 SEP 16):Explosion rocks Israeli satellite industry

Aust/Israel Jewish Affairs Council .06-Sep-16


Israel’s satellite industry is in crisis after a SpaceX rocket carrying an advanced Israeli communications satellite exploded on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida last Thursday 1 September. The accident (which occurred as SpaceX was fuelling its rocket for a prelaunch test) and the subsequent loss of the Israeli-built satellite has been described as a “crushing blow” to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), from which it is uncertain it can recover.

Crown jewel of satellites

The destroyed Amos-6 satellite – developed for the Israeli company Space Communications Ltd (Spacecom) by IAI – was the largest and most sophisticated communications satellite built in Israel’s history; a piece of technology worth between US$200 – $300 million and considered the ‘crown jewel’ of Israeli satellites. Expected to be operational for 16 years, the spacecraft would have provided services to Israeli telecommunications networks (replacing the old Amos-2 satellite) as well as to the company Facebook – who had leased the satellite’s broadband services to expand internet access across sub-Saharan Africa.

This represents a significant setback for Israel’s space program: according to the head of the Israel Space Agency, Yitzchak Ben-Yisrael, if Spacecom chooses to order a new satellite (which is not assured), it would take “between two to three years to fill the gap” left by the Amos-6. A successful launch, however, would have provided Spacecom with US$100 million in earnings from Facebook and US$164 million from the Israeli government. Spacecom has since indicated that it will receive approximately US$205 million in damages from IAI, the satellite’s developers, and is looking to claim either US$50 million or a free flight from SpaceX as compensation for the satellite’s destruction.

The explosion has already impacted Spacecom’s stock – the Israeli business newspaper Globes reported that the company’s share price declined by close to 9% immediately following the accident and has tumbled another 34% since.

What is likely of key concern to Spacecom now is whether its upcoming merger with China’s Xinwei Technology Group, a deal reportedly worth US$285 million, will go ahead – the sale of Spacecom was conditional on the Amos-6 spacecraft being successfully launched and commencing service. Spacecom’s Gil Lotan has indicated that it is too early to know the ramifications, both for the deal and for the future of the company. Indeed, this is not the first instance of bad satellite news for Spacecom: back in November 2015, the company announced that it had lost communication with its Amos-5 satellite only four years after its launch.

Israeli satellite industry

Despite its small size, Israel is one of ten countries worldwide with the capacity to produce, launch and operate satellites in space. Its first satellite – the Ofeq-1 – was launched all the way back in September 1988 and 13 have been launched since. As Peter B. de Selding of SpaceNews notes: “on a per-capita basis, Israel may have the world’s most developed space program.”

Selding goes on to explain:

“With a population no greater than New York City’s, Israel is home to at least two publicly traded pure-play space companies – telecommunications satellite fleet operator Spacecom and satellite broadband ground hardware provider Gilat Satellite Networks. Israel’s domestic rocket, the Shavit, is good enough to launch Israeli military reconnaissance satellites – both radar and optical – developed by Israeli industry. Israel also boasts a satellite prime contractor, Israel Aerospace Industries, that builds telecommunications and observation satellites and, through its subsidiary Imagesat, commercializes the home-grown Eros optical imaging satellites on the global market.”

Where to from here?

In response to Thursday’s explosion, Ofir Akunis – Israel’s Science, Technology and Space Minister – called the heads of Israel’s space industry into an emergency meeting. Ofer Shelah, the chairman of a Knesset subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services also convened his panel to discuss the explosion’s ramifications, noting that the matter was “critical” and it was necessary for the government to commit “the required national resources” to attend to it.

Whilst Israel’s space agency has declared that it would “continue to support the space industries in Israel with the goal of maintaining them at the forefront of technology and preserving Israel’s critical independence, particularly in the area of satellite communication”, Shelah has indicated that this accident has placed the Israeli space industry in a very serious position. Indeed, it appears, that an industry crisis was developing regardless of the success or failure of the Amos-6.

Back in April of this year, Joseph Weiss, the President and CEO of IAI had warned of an “ongoing crisis in the Israeli space industry” due to the lack of government investment. At present, Israel’s space program receives 300 million shekels (US$80 million) in government funding each year – a modest amount when compared to the space budget of other space-faring nations. The Jerusalem Post has reported that the government was planning to reduce this contribution, likely resulting in the dismissal of between 200-250 space experts from IAI.

There are thus fears that Israel lacks a long-term government plan for the satellite industry. Jerusalem has refused to fund the development of an Amos-7 satellite, which would ensure the continuance of an independent communications satellite capability into the future. Indeed, while other nations such as the US build five to eight satellites per year, Israel only produces one satellite every three to four years – with even less government funding, there will be no way to improve its competitive advantage.

Opher Doron, head of IAI’s MBT Space Division, speaking at the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference in February of this year issued his own warning:

“Israel has no space policy, and we are moving backwards.”


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RU-RUK:160906:(09 SEP 16):Russia launches massive military drills near Ukraine’s borders

Vatican Radio 06-Sep-16


Moscow has launched large-scale military drills on Ukraine’s eastern border and around Ukraine’s Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, despite international concerns it could lead to a further escalation of tensions between the two neighbors.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said some 12,500 servicemen are taking part in drills across its southern military region. It added that the Russian Navy in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea are involved in the exercises and that planes are also being used.

The Ministry explained that the six-day exercises would “test the army’s ability to plan, prepare, and carry out military actions.”

These latest military movements come just shortly after Russia last month conducted a large-scale snap drill, putting its troops on full combat readiness in military districts bordering Ukraine and the Baltic states.

It has underscored mounting tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Moscow has accused Kiev in recent weeks of attempting armed incursions into Crimea, which Russia-annexed in 2014. Kiev denies the allegations and is angry about Russian military drills.

Kiev angry

And Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned that Ukraine wants Crimea back as well as areas in eastern Ukraine that are now controlled by pro-Russian separatists. “The most important and difficult goal for us is to make our flag rise again over Donetsk, Luhansk, Simferopol and Sevastopol,” he said.

As part of that effort, Kiev already received military support. On Monday Lithuania confirmed it had delivered 150 tons of Soviet-era ammunition, mainly AK-47 cartridges from its old munitions stocks to Ukraine.

Poroshenko spoke during the annual flag-raising ceremony in Kiev at a time when the country remembered its 25th anniversary of independence from what was the Soviet Union.

He stood alongside a daughter of Ukrainian politician Volodymyr Rybak who was attacked by a pro-Russian mob and apparently tortured and murdered by masked militia.

The apparent murder of Rybak and a second man in 2014 prompted the European Union to urge Russia to use its influence to stop kidnappings and killings in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

But more than two years later Kiev claims Moscow just wants to further destabilize Ukraine with weapons and troops and make the nation part of what it calls “the Russian empire”.

The Kremlin denies the charges.

Yet with thousands of Russian troops now inside Crimea and elsewhere near Ukraine’s borders, it has become clear that the standoff between Kiev and Moscow is far from over. That has raised Western concerns about a possible wider military confrontation between the two neighbors.


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CV:160905:(09 SEP 16):Actually, Mother Teresa did NOT become a saint on Sunday

Catholic Culture 05-Sep-16


Just for the record—to correct the thousands of inaccurate headlines you’ve already seen— the Pope did not make Mother Teresa a saint yesterday. Nor did she become a saint yesterday. She already was a saint. Pope Francis formally declared her to be a saint.

Canonization is what you might call the diagnosis of a pre-existing condition. Pope Francis did not open the pearly gates for Mother Teresa on Sunday; he confirmed that she is already in heaven. Her holiness was not in doubt (at least not among reasonable people); the Pope infallibly pronounced what we already knew to be true.

Some saints live in obscurity. Others are caught up in controversy. So the rigorous procedure by which the Church examines the lives of candidates for beatification and canonization is designed to expose truths and clear up doubts. Since even rigorous study can leave questions unresolved, the Church requires proof of miracles attributed to the candidate’s intercession: signs of Divine confirmation that our belief in someone’s sanctity is not misplaced.

In the case of Mother Teresa, however, there wasn’t much uncertainty. One can imagine some observers, reading about the Sunday ceremony, wondering why it took the Catholic Church so long to recognize what seemed so obvious. She was recognized as a saint, even by people who don’t know what it means to be a saint. Which is why it’s worthwhile to correct the headlines, to get the story right. The canonization of Mother Teresa—St. Teresa—is an opportunity to remind the secular world about the meaning of holiness.

Mother Teresa wasn’t a superhero. She was an ordinary woman, with ordinary human weaknesses, as she would be the first to admit. She did extraordinary things in spite of her limitations, by the grace of God. Her canonization is a reminder that each one of us could do extraordinary things as well.


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IS-FEJ:160906:(09 SEP 16):Japan, Israel upgrade relations as Arab oil influence wanes

Reuters 06-Sep-16


Japanese executives say they are increasingly drawn to investments in Israel as the price of oil falls and, with it, the influence Arab oil suppliers have on Japan’s decision-making.

Over the past two years, Japan and Israel have strengthened business ties, signing a series of economic agreements on the back of a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Israel in 2015 and Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Tokyo in 2014.

“Abe had a good impression; he liked Netanyahu’s mentality,” Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, told Reuters when he led a delegation from Keizai Doyukai, the Japanese business lobby, to Israel in May.

For years, trade between the two was minimal – Japan was reluctant to upset its oil suppliers, many of whom belong to the Arab League, which has long backed a boycott of Israel.

“Geopolitics is changing in the Middle East and as oil prices come down, strategically it’s not as important,” said Kobayashi. “Japan is changing its mind.”

Israel’s prowess in Internet, biotech, and automotive technologies is particularly attractive, Kobayashi said.

This is not to say Japan has given up on the Arab world.

Isamu Nakashima, chief researcher at the Middle East Institute of Japan, said Japan’s need for oil will always trump its need for anything Israel can offer, though past worries that trade with Israel could annoy Arab nations have mostly faded.

“But for things to really improve a lot, there needs to be a peace settlement (between Israel and the Palestinians),” Nakashima said.

Bilateral trade in goods in the first seven months of 2016 rose to $1.4 billion from $1.1 billion, making Japan Israel’s fourth-largest market in Asia. It is part of a growing shift in focus as Asia overtakes the United States to become Israel’s largest trading partner after Europe.

The deal that put Israel on Japan’s business map was the $900 million acquisition of chat app Viber by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc in 2014. Viber has a big user base in Asia and was approached by Rakuten while doing business there, said Michael Shmilov, Viber’s chief operating officer.

“There are strong cultural differences but at the same time, Rakuten is a global company where English is the official language and we are working closely to reduce the impact of these differences,” he said.

The biggest obstacle, he said, is the lack of direct airline flights, something Israel wants to change.

The Viber acquisition was followed by several others, including the $212 million purchase of Israel’s Altair Semiconductor by Sony Corp this year.

Net investment by Japanese firms in Israel, after subtracting Israeli investment in Japan, nearly doubled in 2015 to 5.2 billion yen ($50 million), according to the Japan External Trade Organisation, citing Bank of Japan data.

“The last two years … we’ve seen a great expansion of Japanese activities, many large corporations are coming here, setting up R&D centres and investment flows are rising,” said Avi Hasson, Israel’s chief scientist.

Seven Japanese companies – including Panasonic, NEC and Ricoh – have joined his office’s multinational R&D programme, creating 12 projects with Israeli companies.

Gilad Majerowicz, head of the Japan desk at Israeli law firm Herzog Fox & Neeman, said several large Japanese companies planned to set up R&D centres in Israel.

For Israel, Japan offers a large market and a source of capital at a time of growing calls by some activist groups in Europe and the United States for a boycott of Israel because of its policies towards the Palestinians.

They seek a state on land captured by Israel in a 1967 war. The most recent peace talks between the two fizzled in 2014.

Israeli mobile advertising analytics firm AppsFlyer opened an office in Tokyo last year and has over 100 Japanese clients.

“People who are tech savvy really respect Israeli companies,” said Naoya Otsuba, AppsFlyer’s manager in Japan.

An area where Japan is a particularly attractive market is in defence and cyber security, a sector that faces restrictions when it comes to China. Health is another key area as Japan’s aging population seeks affordable medication.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has a joint venture with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co to bring its generics drugs to Japan.


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IS:160906:(09 SEP 16):New rail line to connect high-tech Tel Aviv with holy Jerusalem

Reuters 06-Sep-16


Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are only 60 km (40 miles) apart but they often feel like different planets, not just in terms of mentality but because the commute from the Mediterranean to the hills can sometimes take two hours.

That is set to change in the next 18 months with the completion of a $2 billion, high-speed rail line that will slash the time between the high-tech, business centre and Jerusalem’s Old City to just 30 minutes.

After more than a decade in the planning, the project, which has involved boring tunnels through mountains and spanning bridges over deep valleys, promises to transform Israel’s two largest cities, or at least bring them a little closer.

“We are doing in Israel what was done 200 years ago in the United States, after World War Two in Europe and in recent decades in Asia,” Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said on Tuesday, touting several new rail lines in the works. “The main aim is to connect Jerusalem to the rest of the country.”

There is already a train between Jerusalem and the coast — built during the Ottoman empire and added to by the French and the British — but it’s a slow, scenic route that takes an hour and 40 minutes, not ideal for commuting. That said, around 7,500 people still ride it most days.

The new line takes a more direct route, cutting through the steep hills between the Mediterranean and Jerusalem, which sits 800 metres (2,640 feet) above sea level.

Working with 10 foreign companies, the line runs over 10 bridges and through five tunnels. Construction began in 2010 and is scheduled to end in March 2018.

Double-decker trains holding around 1,700 passengers will travel at 160 km/h. The plan is for four departures an hour, serving 50,000 commuters a day, or 10 million a year, said Boaz Zafrir, the chief executive of Israel Railways.

Katz believes the train will give a jolt to Jerusalem’s economy, encouraging more people from the coast to open businesses in the city, which is more religious and conservative than Tel Aviv. Some Tel Avivians, fed up with high rental costs and high humidity, may also decide to move to Jerusalem.

The new line also promises to be a boon for foreign diplomats, Israeli government employees and parliament members, many of whom live on the coast but commute to Jerusalem almost daily and often lament the traffic jams.


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IS:160907:(09 SEP 16):Israel Posts Information and Schedule Regarding Upcoming Bidding Round for New Oil and Gas Exploration Licenses 07-Sep-16


Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources has posted on a dedicated website new information concerning the first round of bidding for offshore oil and gas exploration activity.  Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Mediterranean Sea is divided into 69 exploration areas or blocks.  The Ministry plans to conduct successive rounds for new exploration areas in the EEZ.  In the first round, the Ministry will offer for competitive bidding 24 blocks that are located in the central part of the offshore area. The Ministry states that the 24 blocks were chosen based on seismic and geologic data indicating a high potential for promising geological structures; some of the blocks are adjacent to the substantial deep water gas discoveries in Israel’s EEZ, including the Tamar and Leviathan fields.  The Ministry’s website offers a map showing Israel’s offshore EEZ, including the blocks to be offered for bidding and blocks covered by existing leases and licenses.

The bid documents for the upcoming round contain all the required information for bidding, including a description of the offering, the required qualifications and assessment criteria, license model, instructions for submission and the relevant forms and tables for submitting an application.  Potential bidders can obtain the tender documents by contacting Coordinator at Foreign Relations and Information, Natural Resources Administration, via email or phone.  Interested parties wishing to remain initially anonymous may also acquire the tender documents through legal counsel.

The Ministry also published the following bid timeframe:

Publication of tender documents        Nov. 15, 2016

Roadshow event in Houston                November 2016 (date TBD)

End of Q&A                                           Jan. 31, 2017

Closing Date                                         March 28, 2017

The Ministry also states that it has prepared a data package for potential bidders containing comprehensive information on the Levant Basin’s geology including highlights of the Petroleum System and Basin Analysis study performed by Beicip FranLab in 2015.  Importantly, the Ministry states on its website that purchasing the tender documents, including the data package, is a pre-condition for participation in the bidding round.  Details on the cost of the package can be obtained from Dina Levant at the same contact information noted above.  The data package includes, among other things:  (1) information from 19 wells that were drilled offshore Israel between 1970 and 2013 (list of wells and location map); (2) 2D seismic data acquired between 1970 and 2013 covering the entire bid area (raw field tapes can be purchased for additional cost); and (3) bathymetric, gravity and magnetic data covering most of the bid area.


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ECY-MEG:160907:(09 SEP 16):Cyprus and Egypt sign gas agreement

NaturalGasEurope 07-Sep-16


Cyprus and Egypt signed the first among three agreements that involve gas to be transported from Cyprus EEZ to the LNG terminals of Egypt or for consumption in Egypt’s power stations. But there are still many obstacles to be overcome.

In a joint statement August 31 the energy ministers of Cyprus and Greece said that their governments had decided “to speedily proceed with discussions on an Intergovernmental Agreement for the pipeline from Cyprus to Egypt, which will be intended to facilitate the realisation of the project within the maritime areas of jurisdiction of the two countries.

“Co-operation in the oil and gas sector between the two countries will further deepen the excellent relations between Cyprus and Egypt to the mutual benefit of the peoples of Cyprus and Egypt, and will also further unlock and promote the potential of the Eastern Mediterranean as a whole.”

In signing the agreement Cyprus’ energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said that it creates a secure investment framework for the transport of natural gas to Egypt.

He added “Essentially today we signed an agreement that provides that the two countries will respect the provisions of any trade agreements to be made in the near future … We hope that this agreement will assist and accelerate trade agreements … creating a secure investment framework for the sale of natural gas from Cyprus to Egypt.”



AU-UKBR:160907:(09 SEP 16):Aussies sense an opening as UK slams door on Europe

Australian 07-Sep-16


How sweet it will be for the Hesp family if Brexit opens the way for Australian sugar to return to the supermarket shelves of Britain after all these years.

Talks between Malcolm Turnbull and British Prime Minister Theresa May have fired hopes of a new trade agreement to deal Australian farmers back into the market they lost in 1973 when Britain joined the then European Economic Community, forerunner of the EU.

At the time, Richard Hesp’s father, Jim, was growing sugarcane outside Gordonvale in north Queensland and, as with primary producers across Australia, life got that much tougher for the family. “It was definitely a blow,” Richard Hesp said after Mr Turnbull pitched to Mrs May a free-trade agreement once Britain left the EU. “When you lose a ­stable market like that … everyone feels it.”

Previously, Britain had taken up to a third of Australian agricultural exports. The sugar industry built a new customer base as Australian producers shifted focus from the “old country” to emerging opportunities in Asia.

Most of the crop Mr Hesp is raising with his 22-year-old son Hayden — a fifth-generation cane farmer — will be exported to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and, increasingly, China.

A generation ago, Australian dairy farmers sent 55,000 tonnes of butter a year to Britain and 10,000 tonnes of cheese. Last year, the value of dairy exports to the EU barely nudged $19 million — a drop in the milk bucket compared to the $600m clocked up with China. Apple growers who were crunched in 1973 found replacement markets in New Zealand, ­Indonesia and Canada; beef producers looked to the US and Japan.

National Farmers Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said only 1.5 per cent of Australian agricultural exports now go to Britain, the rest locked out by EU tariffs or priced out by hefty subsidies paid to European farmers. Wine, beef and lamb are mainstays of the trade now.

But Australian producers have never given up on the lucrative British market and the ice-breaking discussion between Mr Turnbull and Mrs May on the sidelines of the G20 summit were encouraging. “We are certainly looking at it as an opportunity, but we are realistic about our expectations,” Mr Mahar said.

Deputy Prime Minister Barn­aby Joyce talked up the potential of a post-Brexit trade deal, telling The Australian: “In the 1970s Britain, from an agricultural perspective, disappeared overnight, and overnight they are back again. This is a vitally important opportunity for both our countries.”

While Mr Turnbull said Australia was “getting in … early” it would take the British years to untangle from the EU. Mrs May insisted in Hangzhou the success of Brexit would be measured in part by new bilateral trade agreements.

Mr Mahar said the deal with Britain would be nutted out as Australia negotiated a separate FTA with the EU. Much would ­depend on whether British farmers kept their EU benefits, as pledged by the May government, or if the Europeans retaliated by imposing new tariffs.

Canegrowers Australia’s head of economics Warren Male said the sugar industry hoped to boost sales to Britain from a “teaspoonful” to about 150,000 tonnes a year through an FTA. Before 1973, a third of Australian sugar exports went there.

Charlie McElhone, of Dairy Australia, said closure of the British market had ­created problems that cascaded through the sector. “We still refer to it today as one of the most disruptive times we have had,” he said.

Cattle Council chief executive Jed Matz said Australia currently sold about 30,000 tonnes annually to the EU, most of it in top-shelf cuts. About half the quota imposed by the Europeans was shipped to Britain. “We are looking to the future,” Mr Matz said.

The EU tariff added up to 23c to the average $9 retail price of a bottle of wine in Britain, the Australian Grape and Wine Authority reported last year.

At the family cane farm 40 minutes’ drive south of Cairns, Richard Hesp said the Europeans had been dumping subsidised beet sugar on the world market for years and Australian growers were keen to even the score by regaining market share in Britain.

“Having another stable customer would be a real bonus in terms of increasing the competition to support the sugar price,” said Mr Hesp, 50.

Son Hayden chimed in: “Any opportunity is better than none.”


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IS-AS:160907:(09 SEP 16):Settlement hype, not ‘activity’, reaches new high

Aust/Israel Jewish Affairs Council .07-Sep-16


Regular readers of AIJAC research know how – among all the rifts in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict – the significance of the issue of construction within Israeli settlements in the West Bank has long been overemphasised and exaggerated in international diplomacy.

Ironically, this disproportionate focus on settlements over every other issue has only made peace prospects more remote by reinforcing the Palestinian pretext to continue avoiding negotiations with Israel.

However, White House and State Department criticism of Israel last week over construction in its West Bank settlements may just have set a new high-water mark for settlement hysteria.

The controversy was covered in the news in Australia and New Zealand.

In an online article for ABC about Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s visit to Israel, ABC’s Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill wrote:

Last week, Israel announced it was building more than 280 new housing units in the occupied West Bank, a move the United States described as concerning.

Meanwhile, Friday’s New Zealand Herald devoted a third of a page to a Reuters story on the subject, titled “US criticises new wave of Israeli settlements in the West Bank”

The Herald article featured a pullquote from US State Department John Kirby saying:

“These policies have effectively given the Israeli government a green light for the pervasive advancement of settlement activity in a new and potentially unlimited way.”

But do the facts actually justify this level of criticism? First of all, out of the 284 units in question, 234 of them are not new apartments or homes, but a single nursing home in Elkana.

People who are familiar with such facilities realise that we are talking about what amounts to a single building with, astonishingly, every individual room in the nursing home being considered a separate “home” for the purposes of international criticism.

Israelis are unlikely to move from Israel to Elkana to live in the nursing home. It is essentially a medical facility for residents of the area – not housing. There are no known precedents for this claim and it defies common sense to condemn it as though we are talking here about entire neighbourhoods of new individual family homes.

But what about the other authorisations? Thirty houses were approved in Beit Arye and 20 dwellings in Givat Ze’ev – that’s true. But Givat Ze’ev has a population of over 15,000 people and Beit Aryeh has a population of over 4,500 people. In this context, we’re not talking about a substantial expansion relative to the size of the settlements.

Moreover, Elkana is 3.1 kilometres from the pre-1967 boundary with Israel, Beit Aryeh is 3.8 kilometers and Givat Ze’ev is five kilometres from Jerusalem. All are situated within the settlement blocs that are expected to be retained by Israel in any peace agreement through the use of land swaps which US President Barack Obama, Fatah and even the Arab League have endorsed in principle.

In the Herald story, Kirby went further – criticising Israel’s decision to retroactively issue building permits for 179 existing homes that were built in Beit Arye-Ofarim many years ago (while Reuters does not mention exactly when these homes were built, Ha’aretz (subscription required) reported they were built beginning in the 1980s.)

Kirby said:

“We are deeply concerned by the Government’s announcement to advance plans for these settlement units in the West Bank,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a news briefing in Washington.

“We are particularly troubled by the policy of retroactively approving unauthorised settlement units and outposts that are themselves illegal under Israeli law.

“These policies have effectively given the Israeli Government a green light for the pervasive advancement of settlement activity in a new and potentially unlimited way.”

Meanwhile, the Ha’aretz story cited a separate comment, this time coming from the White House.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the approvals a “significant expansion of settlement activity” and said the development “poses a serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are particularly troubled by a policy of retroactively approving illegal outposts and unauthorized settlements,” Earnest said. “I think we have been quite unambiguous about the concerns we have on this issue.”

Kirby’s and Earnest’s statements defy all logic and common sense. The number of approvals involved here are nominal – 50 overall – and they deal exclusively with new construction of homes within the boundaries of settlements Israel is expected to keep as part of any peace agreement. This hardly represents a “significant expansion of settlement activity” or poses “a serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution.”

Furthermore, issuing belated permits for decades-old homes within existing Green Line settlements doesn’t “advance” settlement activity one iota.

It’s a bureaucratic adjustment that – particularly here in the case of houses within an authorised settlement located inside the expected land-swap zone – has no practical significance whatsoever.

Moreover, Kirby and Earnest were absolutely wrong to depict Ofarim, where these retroactive permits are being issued in this case, as some kind of settlement “outpost that [is] illegal under Israeli law”. It simply isn’t, when you look at the facts.

Just over 3.3 kilometres from the Green Line and 13 kilometres away on the direct approach path to Ben Gurion Airport’s Runway 26, it’s a fullly-fledged settlement established in 1989 with the blessing of Labor as well as Likud under a Unity Government at that time.

According to Jerusalem Post reporter Joshua Brilliant in an article announcing the establishment of Ofarim to coincide with Israeli Independence Day in 1989 [1],

“[Ofarim is]among the eight settlements which the Alignment [Labor] and Likud agreed to set up when they formed the present coalition.”

In addition, there is clearly more to this “retroactive legalisation” story we’re not hearing about.

How so? If you zoom in on a satellite picture of Ofarim (like from this screenshot from Google Maps) and you count up the houses you will conclude that the retroactive permit covers what appears to be virtually every single home in Ofarim. And yet we know that Ofarim was an authorised settlement, announced with the bipartisan endorsement of both Labor and Likud in 1989.

Put another way, there is a discrepancy between what we know – that Ofarim was unquestionably established as an authorised settlement – and the fact that these houses were built without having certain paperwork in place. It would be interesting to investigate how and why this discrepancy came about but it doesn’t diminish the significance of the fact that Ofarim was built with the permission of the Israeli government (and a Unity Government at that).

In any case – and it’s worth exploring a bit further here – there’s a reason why Israel wants to retain these settlements. A feature article [2] written in December 1997 by the Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon mentioned Ofarim among other settlements in this context:

These are communities that, using Yitzhak Rabin’s lexicon, are “security” settlements, not “political” ones. They are among those planned by the Labor government in the 1970s – though they were actually set up during the Likud-led government of the early 1980s – to widen Israel’s waist at its narrowest point, secure the country’s water resources and gain control over the approaches to Ben-Gurion Airport.

Elkana serves the same purpose. Similarly, Givat Ze’ev is a suburb of Jerusalem and sits along Route 443, a strategically vital road that gives Israel’s capital a crucial second access route from the coastal plain.

In conclusion

As I’ve blogged recently, construction of homes within settlements since Prime Minister Netanyahu took office in 2009 has been historically low and has failed to accommodate even natural growth due to births and marriages. The vast majority of construction that has been permitted has taken place within settlement blocs.

The most recent controversy has been exaggerated by illogically and unfairly counting a single nursing home as if it were over 200 separate new housing units and by fanning outrage over Israeli bureaucratic paper-shuffling and statistically insignificant construction approvals within three settlements Israel is likely to retain in any peace agreement due to land swaps in the first place.

In light of all this, the puzzling question is why the Obama Administration has decided to give the Palestinians even more incentive to avoid negotiations while at the same time signalling to Israel that the US isn’t really serious about supporting the principle of land swaps it has previously endorsed as being an essential element of any peace agreement.

Such erratic and contradictory messages from the Obama Administration continue to be unhelpful and, ironically, are themselves making a two-state outcome increasingly less likely in the short term.


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EU-NATO:160907:(09 SEP 16):EU parks its tanks on Nato’s lawn with European army plan

The Times 07-Sep-16


Plans for a military structure that will be able to act autonomously from Nato have been drafted by the EU’s head of foreign affairs

A timetable setting out steps to create EU military structures, billed by some countries as the foundation of a “European army”, will be announced this week.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s head of foreign affairs, told ambassadors yesterday that she would table the “road map” to take advantage of “political space” opened by the Brexit vote.

Her plans for military structures able “to act autonomously” from Nato have led to fears that the EU is seeking to rival the alliance that has been the primary European defence structure since 1949.

Ms Mogherini told diplomats working for the European External Action Service that the military plan was the EU’s best chance to relaunch itself after the “shocking result” of the referendum on EU membership. “It might sound a bit dramatic but we are at this turning point,” she said.

“We could relaunch our European project and make it more functional and powerful for our citizens and the rest of the world. Or we could diminish its intensity and power.”

Her planned “global strategy” was drawn up this spring in secret to avoid derailing the referendum because many of her proposals had previously been blocked by British governments.

After the Brexit vote, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy and countries in central Europe see a new chance to press ahead with deeper EU military integration without British opposition.

“We have the political space today to do things that were not really doable in previous years,” Ms Mogherini told the EU ambassadors.

Last week the Czech Republic and Hungary backed the plan as the foundation to “setting up a joint European army”, an aim shared by Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission president.

Ms Mogherini said that her plan would be a “beginning” and not a blueprint for a fully fledged EU army.

“The European army is not something that is going to happen any time soon,” she said. “Now is the time for real stuff and this is only the beginning.”

The blueprint envisages countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland creating permanent military structures to act on behalf of the EU under a clause in the Lisbon treaty that has never been used. The proposals will include “tackling the procedural, financial and political obstacles” to the deployment of the EU’s battle groups, 18 national battalions available but never used for military missions.

She will also propose to “change institutional structures to be more imaginative” including an EU military planning and operations headquarters in Brussels that could be a rival to Nato.

“More effective civilian and military planning might need a specific structure and we will look into this kind of institutional innovation as well,” she said yesterday.

A timetable for the plan will be discussed at a meeting of 27 EU leaders — excluding Theresa May — at a summit in Bratislava in ten days. Diplomats said that Britain had dropped its opposition.

Nato officials have expressed concerns that the proposals will create rivalry and challenge the alliance’s primacy as the main defence structure.

A Franco-German paper published shortly after the Brexit vote urged a “permanent civil-military chain of command” for the EU without mentioning Nato, reviving fears that European plans to displace the American dominated alliance could resurface.

“Once the UK leaves the EU it will change the dynamic and debate inside the EU,” a diplomatic source said. “You can imagine fresh focus on institutional construction and then looking around for a problem to solve with these new tools . . . there is some risk of returning to the institutional competition of a decade ago between Nato and the EU.”


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UKBR-EU:160907:(09 SEP 16):Brexit Could Harm Your Biggest Companies, U.K. Bankers Warn EU

Bloomberg 07-Sep-16


Britain’s financial industry has a message for Europe: cutting out the City of London won’t just hurt U.K. banks, it’ll harm companies from Germany to France as well.

European companies could lose access to the region’s biggest financial hub, making it harder for them to borrow money or buy derivatives to protect against currency swings and fluctuating interest rates, British Bankers’ Association Chief Executive Officer Anthony Browne told a U.K. parliamentary committee on Wednesday. That’s an added incentive to strike a deal on Brexit that’s good for Britain as well as the remaining 27 European Union member states, he added.

The world’s biggest banks are piling more pressure on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and other European leaders to strike an interim agreement that limits damage to their operations and the region’s economy. With reluctance in Britain to allow concessions on immigration and as Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande face elections next year, politics could stand in the way.

“We shouldn’t look at all this about what’s in our own national interest; it’s got to be in their interest as well,” Browne told the House of Lords’s committee on financial affairs. “It’s in the interest of a lot of customers across Europe to be able to continue to have access to the services that London offers. It’s not in the interest of either side to sever that.”

For more on what global banks are lobbying for on Brexit, click here

The lobbying position signals a shift from warnings from some banks leading up to the June 23 referendum that they would move operations from London in the event of a Brexit. It also mirrors the arguments made by campaigners for Brexit, who said EU nations wouldn’t want to lose access to one of their biggest export markets by cutting the U.K. out of its free-trade area.

Also speaking on the panel, Andrew Gray, U.K. regional financial services leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said that some of the wider costs that would impact the U.K. and Europe “should be more fully understood” before negotiating positions get too hard. “The failure of an investment bank to provide a German corporate with the right financial structuring would inevitably be a direct cost on the German corporate, as well as a loss of revenue for the English subsidiary of the particular institution.”

Separately, TheCityUK, another lobby group, said in a briefing paper that securing ongoing access to the EU single market on broadly similar terms to now is vital to maintaining a vibrant U.K. financial-services industry. It’s calling on the U.K. government to strike an interim agreement with the EU on preserving so-called passporting rights for a transitional period after the end of two years of official Brexit negotiations.

While European lenders such as Deutsche Bank AG have operations elsewhere in the EU outside of London, they’re not immune from Brexit, CEO John Cryan said last month. He said the U.K. capital will remain a top financial center over the next decade and his bank realizes that many of its customers and trading operations are based there.


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EGE:160907:(09 SEP 16):Germany’s War Record (I)

German Foreign Policy 07-Sep-16


Around 17 years after NATO’s war against Yugoslavia and the beginning of the occupation of Kosovo with German participation, observers note that the de-facto protectorate is in a desolate political, economic and social condition. The first war in which the Federal Republic of Germany played an important role has had catastrophic consequences. De facto under EU control, Priština’s ruling elite is accused of having close ties to organized crime and having committed the most serious war crimes. Its rampant corruption is spreading frustrated resignation within the population. Thirty-four percent of the population is living in absolute – and twelve percent in extreme – poverty, healthcare is deplorable, life expectancy is five years less than that of its neighboring countries and ten years below the EU’s average. A report commissioned by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), describes the horrifying human rights situation, which includes vendettas “constantly carried out” with firearms. (This is part 1 of a series, reporting on consequences of German military interventions over the past two decades, in light of the German government’s announcement of plans to increase its “global” – including military – interventions.)

De-facto Protectorate

Around 17 years after NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, and its subsequent occupation of the south Serbian Kosovo Province – with the participation of the German Bundeswehr – the EU is still treating Kosovo like a de-facto protectorate. The EU maintains a presence in the capital, Priština, with a special envoy, who has enormous influence simply because large EU subsidies guarantee the functioning of Kosovo’s government. Since 1999, the EU is said to have transferred five to six billion Euros to Priština, although a large portion has allegedly filled the pockets of corrupt politicians and government employees. The EU, with its “European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo” (EULEX Kosovo), has massive influence in the secessionist province. EULEX, itself, has repeatedly been accused of being deeply involved in corruption.[1] NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) remains deployed in Kosovo to suppress, if necessary, larger rebellions or social upheavals. German and Italian generals alternately command KFOR. Until now, 109 of the UN’s 193 member countries have recognized the southern Serbian province’s claim to independent statehood. Even the EU is divided on the question: Despite massive German pressure, five EU members (Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Cyprus) refuse to recognize Kosovo’s independence – still today.

War Crimes, Organized Crime

Serious allegations, and even grave accusations of corruption and war crimes have repeatedly been raised against Kosovo’s elites, who can remain in power in Priština, particularly under the EU’s supervision. Observers criticize the fact that since starting its engagement in 2008, EULEX has failed to obtain even a single conviction of a Kosovo politician for corruption. Since 1999, Hashim Thaçi, Priština’s current president, has been considered the strongman in the secessionist province and the head of Kosovo’s mafia. He has repeatedly been accused of having been involved – either personally or through close associates – in murdering Serbs, and removing and trafficking their organs. ( reported.[2]) Similar accusations have been leveled at other top politicians in Kosovo, such as Ramush Haradinaj.[3] Despite the Kosovo parliament’s massive obstruction, a special court will soon hand down the first indictments for Kosovo war crimes, possibly also against leading politicians of Kosovo. The chances – 17 years after the crimes – of obtaining convictions are slim, not only because of the time lapse, but also because of experience. In earlier trials, witnesses died suddenly or became intimidated by the growing numbers of these deaths, and lost their will to testify against those in power in Priština. The alleged perpetrators got away with impunity.

Employment Rate: 28 Percent

The corrupt, mafia-like administration, maintained in office in Priština by the EU, is not only responsible for the widespread political frustration in the population – in 2014 electoral participation dropped to 42 percent – in spite of voter mobilization by certain clans. Protests are simmering. Since the 2008 proclamation of independence, the most virulent protests erupted shortly following the formation of the government in January 2015. Priština’s political culture clearly contributes to increasing sense of resignation within Kosovo’s population. The fact, for example, that teargas has repeatedly been used during parliamentary debates – most recently, on August 9 – can at least partially explain this resignation.[4] However, Kosovo’s elite is also responsible for the region’s desolate economic and social situation. Kosovo has an annual average per capita income of less than 2,800 Euros and is totally dependant upon EU aid and money transfers from relatives living abroad. A real economic upswing is nowhere in sight. Unemployment is excessively high. The employment rate is no more than 28 percent.[5] According to a report commissioned by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), 34 percent of the population, with a daily average income of less than €1.55, is languishing in absolute poverty. Twelve percent, with a daily average income of less than €1.02, is suffering extreme poverty. Minorities such as the Roma are being “disproportionately affected.” The social system is “only rudimentary, and does not provide adequate service,” the BAMF reports. The health system is stagnating “at a low level,” therefore, “the public health situation is inadequate.” “Life expectancy is five years less than that of its neighboring countries and ten years below the EU’s average.” The child mortality rate is “the highest in Europe.”


Moreover, the human rights situation is deplorable. The BAMF-commissioned report notes that – 17 years after the NATO invasion, which set off the 1999 war against Yugoslavia in the name of human rights – Kosovo clans have a free hand in continuing to honor archaic standards. “Particularly among the rural population,” the report politely notes, “archaic customs, traditions and culture are still very much alive.”[6] “Archaic customs” refers, for example, to the fact that “the focus is not on official institutions and their means of penalization, but rather on families or extended families (clans).” They use “a relic of the Albanian customary law,” namely “the tradition of the Kosovo Albanian vendetta.” “The pure vendetta tradition, is only occasionally practiced” today. A differentiation must be made between a vendetta and general “acts of vengeance,” which are “constantly carried out.” “The threshold for use of a firearm is often very low.”

Shots and Molotov Cocktails

An overall human rights situation has correspondingly developed under the EU’s protectorate supervision. A United Nations report listed 86 violent “incidents” – mostly aimed at members of the Serb-speaking minority, between April 16 and July 15. These attacks included shots being fired at the house of a Serbian politician and a Molotov cocktail attack on a police-escorted convoy of persons celebrating a Serbian Orthodox holiday. There were luckily no injuries.[7] As Amnesty International reported, in 2015, 1,650 people, who had disappeared during armed conflicts in 1998 and 1999, were still missing. The EU’s EULEX mission preferred not to properly investigate cases involving Serb-speaking inhabitants of Kosovo.[8] Amnesty reports that, minorities such as Roma or Ashkali are “still suffering under institutional discrimination,” while “physical attacks against lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender and intersexes as well as other hate crimes” are not even investigated by the authorities. The fact that numerous journalists complain of being hampered in their work through threats or physical attacks, concords with the overall findings.

No Need to Flee

The conditions in the German-EU protectorate of Kosovo have driven large numbers of its inhabitants to flee. Between November 2014 and March 2015 alone, more than 50,000 Kosovo Albanians left the country – 2,78 percent of a population of 1.8 million. In 2014, according to the German Interior Ministry, 8,923 refugees from Kosovo have requested asylum in Germany and 37.095 in 2015 – altogether 2.56 percent of the Kosovo population. De-facto, they will have no chance of obtaining asylum in Germany. After all, Germany and NATO “liberated” their country in 1999. From the German administration’s perspective, they have no acceptable reason to flee.

[Footnotes to articles in German removed] [2] See Became Part of the West [3] See Political Friendships and Heldenfigur.

[7] Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. UNSC S/2016/666, 29.07.2016.

[8] Amnesty Report 2016: Serbien (einschliesslich Kosovo).


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MSA-US:160907:(09 SEP 16):Obama administration arms sales offers to Saudi top $115 billion: report

Reuters 07-Sep-16


U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons, other military equipment and training, the most of any U.S. administration in the 71-year U.S.-Saudi alliance, a report seen by Reuters has found.

The report, authored by William Hartung of the U.S.-based Center for International Policy, said the offers were made in 42 separate deals, and the majority of the equipment has yet to be delivered. Hartung told Reuters the report would be made available publicly on Sept. 8.

The report said U.S. arms offers to Saudi Arabia since Obama took office in January 2009 have included everything from small arms and ammunition to tanks, attack helicopters, air-to-ground missiles, missile defense ships, and warships. Washington also provides maintenance and training to Saudi security forces.

The Center’s report is based on data from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, a Department of Defense body that provides figures on arms sales offers and Foreign Military Sales agreements. Most of the offers, which are reported to Congress, become formal agreements though some are abandoned or amended. The report did not disclose how many of the offers to Saudi Arabia were agreed.

Washington’s arms sales to Riyadh recently have come under fire from rights groups and some members of Congress are disturbed by the rising number of civilian casualties in the war in Yemen, where a coalition led by Saudi Arabia is fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

The conflict has killed at least 10,000 people. Last month the United Nations human rights office said that 3,799 civilians have died in the conflict, with coalition air strikes responsible for an estimated 60 percent of the deaths.

The coalition says it does not target civilians and accuses the Houthis of placing military targets in civilian areas. The coalition has created a body to investigate civilian casualties.

The outcry over those casualties has led some members of Congress to push for restrictions on arms transfers, and amid the growing outcry, the Pentagon cautioned that its support for Saudi Arabia in its Yemen campaign was not “a blank check”.

The Control Arms coalition, a group that campaigns for stricter arms sales controls, said last month that Britain, France and the United States were flouting the 2014 Arms Trade treaty, which bans exports of conventional weapons that fuel human rights violations or war crimes.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration last month approved a potential $1.15 billion arms package for Saudi Arabia.

Hartung said the level of U.S. arms sales to Riyadh should give it leverage to pressure Saudi Arabia.

“It’s time for the Obama administration to use the best leverage it has – Saudi Arabia’s dependence on U.S. weapons and support – to wage the war in Yemen in the first place,” Hartung told Reuters.

“Pulling back the current offer of battle tanks or freezing some of the tens of billions in weapons and services in the pipeline would send a strong signal to the Saudi leadership that they need stop their indiscriminate bombing campaign and take real steps to prevent civilian casualties.”

Washington has been at pains to prove to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies that it remains committed to their defense against Iran in the wake of a multinational deal last year to restrict the Iranian nuclear program. Sunni Muslim Gulf states accuse Shi’ite Iran of fomenting instability in the region, which the Islamic Republic denies.

“The more recent deals that have involved resupplying Saudi Arabia with ammunition, bombs, and tanks to replace weaponry used up or damaged in the war in Yemen are no doubt driven in part by the effort to ‘reassure’ the Saudis that the U.S. will not tilt towards Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal,” Hartung said.


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EGE-TU:160909:(09 SEP 16):Germany to Invest in Turkish Military Base

The Trumpet 09-Sep-16


Germany plans to spend $63 million building a new runway and command center at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, according to a report by Speigel on September 6. The funding is an abrupt change; until recently, Turkey and Germany have been at odds over the base. Turkey banned German leaders from visiting the base in June, after Germany’s parliament passed a resolution declaring that the Ottoman’s mass slaughter of Armenians in 1914 was genocide. Erdoğan has indicated that the ban will soon be lifted. Deutsche Welle reported

Of €58 million [us$65 million], €26 million would fund the laying of a new airfield for the Tornados and appropriate Bundeswehr accommodation for soldiers. A further €30 million, awaiting budgetary clearance, would be spent to erect a command center. For this, foundations would be necessary, costing a further €2 million, Der Spiegel reported.

A Defense Ministry spokesman added that the transportable command center, comprising sophisticated equipment fitted inside large containers, was a useful purchase anyway, independent of Incirlik.


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Why all the signs point to work permit system and ‘hard Brexit’ as Theresa May negotiates the UK-EU divorce

Daily Telegraph 09-Sep-16


Theresa May was forced to publicly dress down her Brexit minister at Prime Minister’s Questions, chiding David Davis at the dispatch box for “prematurely reveal[ing] our hand” in Britain’s approach to the coming EU-UK divorce talks.

But it was notable that the Prime Ministerial irritation was directed at Mr Davis more for giving the game away than the substance of what he actually said – namely that it was “very improbable” that the UK could win control over EU migration while remaining inside the single market.

In truth, Mr Davis was merely stating the obvious given the declared position of the remaining 27 EU member states: namely that Britain cannot remain in the single market if we don’t accept the free movement of EU workers.

That was the position when Mr Cameron negotiated his failed deal in February, and it is the position now.

“The only hope for Britain is that Europe changes its mind and prove that Boris Johnson was right all along”

For MPs still hoping that Britain can remain as close as possible to the EU after Brexit, Mr Davis’s remarks pointed alarmingly towards a so-called ‘hard’ Brexit, where Britain concludes a free-trade deal in the mould of Korea or Canada, perhaps with a few baubles added on.

Mrs May, by contrast, has been deliberately less clear-cut. She has talked about voters wanting “an element” of control, while also seeking trade arrangements that include some form of preferential access to the Single Market.

For Brexiters that deepened fears that Mrs May is going soft on Brexit, and plumping for a “Brexit-lite”.

No-one knows Mrs May’s mind but a close look at the options on the table reveals that Britain (as Mr Davis said) is almost certainly heading for a hard Brexit.

Here’s why…

Option 1: ‘You need a job to come to Britain…’

This slogan makes good tabloid headlines, but as experts have been quick to point out, demanding that all EU citizens have jobs before they come to the UK is very unlikely to bring down the numbers of EU workers entering Britain.

The combination of internet-based job agencies, visa-free travel and low-cost airlines mean that both businesses and workers would find it easy to circumvent such a restriction by simply offering certified work to those that wanted it.

That might add a layer of bureaucracy but it would not materially reduce the flow of EU workers who could arrive with a pre-arranged job, collect their National Insurance number and start work.

So, as Jonathan Portes, the immigration and labour specialist at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), has noted, this idea would only work if Mrs May was not serious about bringing down immigration numbers and desperate to do a face-saving deal with the EU.

May: No Norway model for Brexit but our own British one Play! 01:39

“I put this in the ‘clever wheeze’ category,” he says, “in which Britain says to the EU ‘it’s just a minor tweak’ that does not attack the fundamental principle of Free Movement (of labour) while at the same time sounding good for pro-Brexit crowd back home.”

In short, it’s a cunning plan that would fall apart as soon as the migration statistics were published.

So while Remainers may dream this is the way to a ‘soft’ Brexit, it can be ruled out because while Mrs May hasn’t been clear on any of the details so far, she is clear that voters want “control” over migration.

No-one knows exactly what that means, but it is noteworthy that Mrs May has kept the government’s nominal target of reducing net migration to “tens of thousands”. This scheme certainly wouldn’t do that.

Option 2: Caps and quotas

A stricter version of the above idea – and, some say a more realistic version of a ‘soft Brexit’ – would be to ask the other 27 EU member states to agree to some form of cap on EU migration in return for limited (but still substantial) access to the Single Market.

The cap, says Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, a think-tank that studies migration and identity issues, could take the form of an emergency brake whenever the UK can show excessive pressure from migration, a minimum salary for EU worker jobs or a fixed annual quota for EU workers.

Whatever method you chose, it would put a hard ceiling on the numbers.

David Davis was slapped down by Theresa May over his Brexit negotiations remarks this week

David Davis was slapped down by Theresa May over his Brexit negotiations remarks this week Credit: AFP

Unfortunately – as David Davis pointed out – the Europeans show no sign of agreeing to what is often referred to as a kind of ‘cake-and-eat-it’ deal. David Cameron asked for a four-year emergency break last February but was roundly rebuffed by Berlin and Brussels.

Switzerland is making a similar case to the EU at the moment and getting nowhere.

The only hope for Britain  – and this is why perhaps Mrs May slapped down Mr Davis for talking out of school – is that Europe changes its mind and prove that Boris Johnson was right all along: that Britain needed to vote ‘no’ in order to get a better ‘yes’ from Brussels.

May: Points-based migration system won’t give us control Play! 01:15

Even optimists concede this is a long shot but, posits Mr Katwala, the UK and Mrs May could yet play for time and pray that after the 2017 elections in France and Germany the political landscape looks sufficiently different that the EU strikes a deal.

Even so, there would need to be dramatic changes for the EU to agree to something that it ruled out only six months ago. Then David Cameron asked for a better deal for Britain, and was told ‘no’.  The best he could obtain was a deal to limit benefit payments to EU workers, and that plainly did not convince the electorate.

Indeed, this time around the UK will not even have the leverage of threatening to leave – since we’ll have already notified the EU of that intention. The overwhelmingly likelihood, therefore, is that British demands for a major concession on Free Movement while retaining access to the Single Market will be met with the same answer as in February: “No”.

Option 3: Work permits

All of which is why migration experts like Madeleine Sumption, director of The Migration Observatory at Oxford University, see the political realities moving Britain inexorably towards introducing a work-permit system for EU workers.

In practice, this means EU citizens would be free to come to Britain for holidays and business on visa-free arrangements, but when it came to seeking work, they would need to apply for a permit just like non-EU nationals currently do.

At present Britain accepts 20,700 non-EU migrants every year who must have graduate-level jobs earning over £30,000 a year, with applicants prioritised according to set criteria that favour those on higher salaries, with high levels of education or working in designated ‘shortage’ occupations.

In practice this would have much the same selective impact that many Brexiters really mean when they talk about instituting a ‘points based system’. Mrs May has ruled this out because – without hard quotas – a PBS doesn’t necessarily cut numbers if enough applicants meet the criteria.

Britain would have to decide how big a quota to give to EU nationals and whether they would get any preferential access, or whether to treat all applicants, from all countries the same.

Britain might want to barter some market access in return for, say, separate quota for EU nationals, perhaps with less restrictive requirements, or perhaps set two EU quotas – one for skilled and one for unskilled labour – with seasonal workers being treated in a separate category altogether.

How large the EU quota was – net EU migration is currently running at 180,000 a year – could be set by an independent statutory body, perhaps the Migration Advisory Committee, that would help weigh the needs of employers against the political imperative to get overall numbers down.

These might be in part eased by government demonstrating it was making more strenuous efforts to train British workers for British jobs, says Mr Katwala. “You wouldn’t turn away skills you need now, but to win public consent you need to show that you are working to get yourself out of that position of need to recruit from abroad.”

But whatever quota or schemes Britain agrees, it will surely fall very far short of the current levels of EU migration if  Mrs May is to meet her political commitment to put a significant dent in migration to Britain.

The EU will reciprocate accordingly – which means a hard Brexit.

Which brings us back to the beginning…

So given all the constraints outlined above on migration, “the best deal possible” which Mrs May has promised to seek for British trade in goods and services may not amount to very much.

Under those circumstances, senior officials in Whitehall privately expect the City to lose its so-called “passporting” rights and its euro clearing facilities, while British-based companies will almost certainly have to adapt to a more complex and burdensome regime of customs clearing and regulatory certifications.

Given the silence from No.10 on the question of EU budget contributions, there is some hope in the British bureaucracy that British offers of cash might secure some access to the single market, or at least softer transitional arrangements as the UK moves from ‘in’ to ‘out’.

On the other big Brexiter bugbear – reclaiming the sovereignty of the British parliament  the prime minister has also been notably silent.

“Whatever quota or schemes Britain agrees, it will surely fall very far short of the current levels of EU migration”

However, as Home Secretary she was highly pragmatic when it came to trading British sovereignty for security in joining groups like EuroPol and EuroJust, much to the fury of Bill Cash and other Brexit lions. That points, perhaps, to some flexibility on regulation.

But while Mrs May has been sphinx-like on almost every other aspect of Brexit, on immigration she has been, relatively speaking, very clear.

The reality, say those close to the process, is that Mrs May is much more interested (and personally secure) on the politics of immigration than she is on the minutiae of the economy, which might explain why Philip Hammond, having made expansive promises to the City shortly after taking office, is now quietly having to rein in expectations.

It is worth remembering that in her six years as Home Secretary Mrs May’s efforts to curb migration were routinely trumped by economic concerns from the treasury – now she is in charge, is it likely that Mrs May will let the Treasury stand in her way again? The smart money says not.

David Davis will be proved correct. All the signs are that the need to cut immigration will drive Mrs May’s Brexit calculations, and that points in only one direction – a hard Brexit.


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TU-RU:160909:(09 SEP 16):Gazprom’s Turkish Stream Gains First Turkish Permits

NaturalGasEurope 09-Sep-16


Turkey has awarded Russian gas exporter Gazprom the first permits it requires for the development of the 31.5bn m³/yr Turkish Stream gas pipeline via Turkey, Gazprom announced late September 7.

According to the statement Gazprom has received the permits “through appropriate diplomatic channels” following a meeting last week between Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Turkish energy minister Berat Albayrak.

Gazprom referred to the meeting as having seen the two sides reach an agreement to finalise quickly all the necessary procedures for initiating the project and quoted Miller as stating:

“The issuance of first permits is good news for Gazprom. This move of the Turkish side reflects the interest of Turkey’s government in the Turkish Stream project and marks the transition to its practical implementation,” Gazprom said.

Following last week’s meeting Gazprom announced that the two sides had reached an agreement on the “earliest possible completion of the procedure for issuing authorizations” to enable the work on Turkish Stream to start.

Both Gazprom’s Turkish representative and Turkish energy ministry officials were unavailable September 8 to confirm exactly what sort of permits had been issued.

However they are likely to relate to the conducting of feasibility studies for the final section of pipeline running through Turkey’s European Black Sea Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and territorial waters and the section running overland through Turkey’s European province of Thrace.

The main part of the offshore section of the line running through Turkey’s Black Sea EEZ was previously approved under Gazprom’s now abandoned project for a 63bn m³/yr South Stream pipeline across the Black Sea and through Bulgaria.

Gazprom last year completed an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the offshore and landfall sections of the new Turkish Stream project which was submitted to Turkey’s environment ministry for vetting.

Although the ministry web site indicates that the public consultation process for the project has been completed, as yet the EIA report has not received official approval.

No EIA report has yet been submitted for the overland section of the line owing to a succession of bureaucratic and political delays, stemming from the need for the two countries to conclude an intergovernmental agreement for the line before they finalise the overland route. Turkish media reported recently that Gazprom has started surveying land in Thrace.


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EU-US-UKBR:160909:(09 SEP 16):The EU’s retreat from US trade deal leaves the field to Britain

Daily Telegraph 09-Sep-16


They’ve managed it. The naysayers have succeeded in killing off what would have been the first trade deal signed between the world’s two biggest economic blocs.

“TTIP”, or the Transatlantic Trading and Investment Partnership between the EU and the US, was meant to be part of the plan for a renewed, competitive Europe, helping its indebted economies to carry the deadening weight of the euro. Instead, it is becoming a potent symbol of EU dysfunction.

After years of protests, petitions and successful peddling of terrifying myths about the deadly threat this deal posed to rights, democracy, safety and the environment, European politicians are capitulating. EU mandarins are trying to keep it together in the face of a tough US stance and competing demands by 27 countries but, in the crystal clear estimation of French trade minister Matthias Fekl, the deal is “dead”.

The Eurocrats will continue to insist that, like a convalescent dictator, it is very much alive and well. But to be sure, it is simply resting! Taking the air! But they know as well as anyone else that TTIP – and the useful €120 billion boost they said it would bring the EU economy – is at best being put into a long, deep freeze.

The good news, of course, is that this clears that enormous “queue” for trade deals with the US that Barack Obama was warning us about when he visited Britain before the EU referendum. A post-Brexit UK, he said, would be “at the back” of this queue, and at the G20 last week, he again declared that a UK-US deal won’t be a priority. With TTIP dead, however, there is no queue. Saying that Britain is at the back of it is rather like saying that Mr Obama is at the back of the queue of lame duck US presidents leaving office: he’s also at the front of it.

Any decision on trading terms between the US and its allies will be down to Mr Obama’s successor. Pessimists argue that the anti-globalisation mood taking hold across the pond will preclude any deal making. Donald Trump has demonised trade and even Hillary Clinton has gone lukewarm. But although there is a worrying rise in such hostility, there are reasons to think that Brexit Britain can slip around this roadblock.

The multilateral, sprawling agreements currently running into problems, like TTIP and its Pacific equivalent, are totemic, regional pacts with explicitly geopolitical aims. They are agreed only after torturous negotiations between dozens of countries with different cultures and priorities. They establish remote – and therefore scary-sounding – new regulatory and legal systems and the backlash against them feeds on the idea of a faceless, nationless technocratic class taking over the levers of power at the expense of citizens.

By contrast, a single-country deal with a reliable ally, whose legal system and economy already have much in common with the US, is a less threatening prospect and is unlikely to worry former car workers in Detroit. That is one of the reasons that Mr Trump can insouciantly declare that Britain would certainly not be “at the back of the queue” for a deal, as he did in May.

Mr Trump might not be the most reliable ally. But there are geopolitical reasons why it would make sense for the US to consider a deal, especially if Mrs Clinton wins. It would signal that the UK, a useful US ally in Europe, is not out in the cold. It would help, in a less ostentatious way than TTIP, to expand the sway of economic relations based on the rule of law and regulations, rather than the rule of might favoured by Russia and China. It would also establish a framework to which the EU would hopefully be added in future decades.

A tailor-made deal between Brexit Britain and the US could deliver more gains than TTIP. Although our negotiating power would be weaker than that of the whole EU bloc, British priorities like the inclusion of financial services would form a larger part of any agreement. By the same token, we would avoid the dysfunction generated by the bizarre foibles of 27 different countries, like France’s insistence that its vintners must retain the exclusive right to use the term “champagne”.

More broadly, a deal with the US would be a powerful symbol that Britain is still flying the flag for openness in a western world wracked by doubt. It would signal that although the country is anxious about the scale of recent immigration, it is not joining the ranks of fearful protectionists. Support for free trade has, in fact, remained remarkably strong in the UK for over a century.

In much of the rest of Europe, free trade has a bad name. That made it easy for activists to argue that TTIP was a plot to let corporations block inconvenient government policies by suing them. The deal, in fact, explicitly enshrines governments’ rights to regulate in the public interest, whether it’s for the NHS, workers’ rights or the environment.

The UK is already a party to nearly 100 treaties that let companies settle disputes internationally. Britain has never lost a case in these courts, but UK companies have won 43 cases against other states for arbitrary actions like property expropriation.

So TTIP would not have destroyed democracy. Nor would it have been a panacea. But it would have been a helpful move towards a more competitive EU and a more open global economy. It might be dead, but outside the EU, Britain’s trading ambitions need not die with it.


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EGE:160909:(09 SEP 16):Germany, Political Crisis and Superman

The Trumpet 09-Sep-16


Since 1982, the year E.T. the Extra Terrestrial was released and the Falkland War occurred, Germany has had only three chancellors. The United States has had five presidents in that time; Britain six prime ministers; and Italy 15 prime ministers. Even more remarkable: Since the end of World War ii, more than 70 years ago, Germany has had only nine chancellors. That’s an average of eight years per chancellorship. America, in that time, has had 12 presidents, an average of six years per presidency; Britain 15 prime ministers, five years per prime ministership; and Italy 45 prime ministers, 1.5 years per prime ministership. Behind these facts is a fundamental truth: Postwar Germany, perhaps more than any other modern nation, is accustomed to political stability and order.

So what happens if this stable, dependent political system breaks down? History provides some insight. The Weimar Republic (Germany’s government from 1919 to 1933) was plagued by instability and disorder and was, in general, deeply unpopular. Extremist parties thrived, while the Weimar government was constantly under threat of collapse (there were 14 national elections in 14 years). By 1933, the Weimar system was so enfeebled and there was so much systemic instability that the regime didn’t stand a chance against Adolf Hitler and National Socialism. Seven years after he exploited the political and social crises to take control of Germany, Hitler and the Nazi Party lit the world on fire. Germany’s postwar political system was built, among other purposes, to prevent another Weimar scenario. And for seven decades this system has successfully (though not perfectly) created political stability, order and consistency; marginalized extremist parties and ideologies; and secured the confidence of the German people. Germany’s postwar system has been so successful that few today would consider the notion that Germany could experience Weimar-type conditions. But past success doesn’t guarantee future success, and right now, multiple crises are converging to put enormous pressure on Germany’s postwar political system. It’s still early, but a major political emergency could be imminent. First, consider the crises Germany currently faces. Most obvious is the migrant issue and the integration of more than 1 million migrants, most of whom are Muslim. This comes with significant sacrifice and cost, economically, socially and culturally. Radical Islam has taken root inside Germany and is bent on inflicting violence and suffering. Tension between Germans and foreigners is mounting, and extreme ideologies and politics are rising. Germany’s economic outlook is uncertain and precarious. Deutsche Bank, the nation’s largest financial institution, is on the cusp of meltdown, and its struggles are indicative of a larger financial crisis. Outside Germany, a belligerent Russia is pushing and prodding in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, multiple ailing European countries are counting on Germany for leadership—and money. While the convergence of all these issues is serious, most alarming is the looming political crisis.

Germany’s government, and especially Angela Merkel, is proving inadequate—but Germany doesn’t have an alternate leader. Since 2005 mutti, or “mother,” Merkel has been a textbook example of Teutonic consistency and steadiness, but there are now clear signs of weakness and vulnerability. The problem isn’t that Merkel lacks solutions or leadership; the problem is that rapidly growing numbers of Germans flat-out disagree with Merkel’s solutions and are becoming disenfranchised and angry about her persistence in pushing them. The chancellor, her counterparts and the mainstream German media are increasingly out of touch with the average German. In last Sunday’s state elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Merkel’s own constituency, the Christian Democratic Union (cdu), came in third behind the Social Democrats (spd) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). It was the cdu’s worst showing in state elections since World War ii. The result was a direct function of Merkel’s leadership, specifically her handling of the migrant crisis.

One August poll showed 50 percent of Germans are against Merkel serving a fourth term. An August 4 survey revealed support for Merkel had dropped by 12 points to the lowest level in five years. The same poll revealed that two thirds of voters opposed Merkel’s handling of the migrant crisis. The chancellor is taking more and more criticism from her political partners as well. “Angela Merkel has clearly reached her peak,” stated Ralf Stegner, deputy president of the spd, following Sunday’s election. In an interview, Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the spd, a key partner in Merkel’s coalition government, criticized Merkel’s optimistic motto, “Wir schaffen das” (“We can do this”), and stated that Merkel had “underestimated” the challenge of integrating the migrants.

Some of the most intense criticism is coming from Merkel’s friends and allies in Bavaria, the heart and soul of German conservatism. Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (csu) has been a stalwart ally of the cdu for decades and is the primary reason for the long-standing dominance of conservative coalition governments. These days csu officials, including party leader Horst Seehofer, are extremely critical of Merkel. Many politicians are already on record saying they will not endorse her reelection in national elections in 2017. Commenting on last Sunday’s state election, Horst Seehofer laid the blame squarely with Merkel and warned that unless something changes soon Germany’s conservative parties will be in big trouble. “The situation for the conservatives is extremely threatening,” Seehofer told Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The problem, he said, is that voters are sick and tired of “Berlin politics.” Seehofer has yet to endorse Merkel for reelection.

On Monday, Carsten Brzeski, a chief economist at German bank ing-DiBa, warned that Sunday’s election was “another shot across the bow for the national government and Chancellor Angela Merkel.” Since Sunday, even Germany’s mainstream media, which is generally supportive of Merkel and her migrant policy, has begun to recognize that she may need to step down. On Tuesday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in an address in the Bundestag recognized the seriousness of the times. Germany is facing many extreme pressures, he warned, and there “is an increasingly loud call among us for a strongman.” Conditions are ripe, he warned, for the emergence of a “demagogue.” But who could replace Merkel?

Right now, there is no obvious alternative. It’s Angela Merkel or bust. It’s really quite remarkable: Despite the obvious souring for Merkel, there’s no significant national conversation about who might replace her. Until Sunday’s election, it was hard to even find articles addressing the subject of post-Merkel Germany. Even now, this isn’t a dominant issue in the German media. Merkel doesn’t have an obvious successor. There is no individual, on either the left or right, actively campaigning on a national scale to replace Merkel and lead Germany. Germany doesn’t have a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton; it doesn’t have a Nigel Farage or a Marine Le Pen.

This is significant.

America, Britain and France all have obvious candidates vying to replace the incumbent party or leader, or to represent on a national scale the dissatisfied and angry segments of the population. These nations have popular individuals who are publicly discussing the problems, recognizing the public’s frustrations, and then fielding their own ideas and solutions. Some of these ideas and solutions (and candidates) are ridiculous. But the point is, dissatisfied Americans, British and French are represented by a national figure and movement. They have someone who shares their concerns, someone who at least appears to recognize their worries. Worried Americans, British and French have someone to rally behind. To Americans concerned about immigration, Donald Trump is superman. And to Americans concerned about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is superman. To Britons concerned about immigration or the membership in the European Union, Nigel Farage is superman.

Germany today doesn’t have a superman.

There are, of course, politicians in Germany who would put their hand up to do Merkel’s job. But no one is actively, enthusiastically going after the job; and the German public isn’t giddy for any particular candidate. So far, no one has developed a national campaign— no one is going on television or writing articles or producing commercials— to reach out to the German people and show them that he understands their concerns, that he agrees with their anxieties, and that he has tangible solutions to Germany’s crises. No one has captured the imagination of the people. Germany right now lacks a leader with the personality, the leadership, the style, the policies and the solutions to get the public excited and hopeful.

So, the public’s desire for a superman grows by the day. This is a potentially dangerous scenario. Politics abhors a vacuum. The greater the number and intensity of the crises, the stronger the desire for someone with real solutions. This is exactly the scenario that facilitated the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Compared to his Weimar counterparts, Hitler was energetic, passionate and urgent. He also came along with what seemed like practical, rational solutions. And by 1933, the public’s frustration and anxiety was so intense—its hunger for better leadership so acute—that many Germans ignored Hitler the sociopath and, instead, embraced him as a superman who would soothe their anxieties and restore stability and order.

The Merkel administration today isn’t the Weimar regime. But what if the Islamist terrorist attacks continue? What if migrants continue raping and attacking Germans? What if migrants continue pouring in? What if the economy slumps? What if the far right continues to rise? It’s not unreasonable to expect all these trends to continue. What will Merkel’s fate be then? Perhaps it will all be OK and the right candidate will emerge at the right time to capture the hearts of the German people and seamlessly replace Merkel. Perhaps Merkel will change her views and side with the German public. But let’s be realistic: The most likely scenario is that the crises will continue to converge, Merkel’s popularity will continue to drop, and the hunger of the German people for an individual with real solutions will continue to grow.

Germany, like many other Western governments, is headed for a major political crisis. The German people generally tend to be imperturbable and pragmatic, and they have a high tolerance for discomfort and sacrifice. But they dislike instability and uncertainty, and they have a low tolerance for disorder. So far no German leader or political party—including and especially Angela Merkel— has emerged on a major scale with a plan to confront and solve Germany’s many crises. Germany so far has not experienced any significant improvements in any of these areas. Unless this changes, and soon, Germany is on the path to a major political and social crisis.

As we watch the situation in Germany we need to keep an eye out for potential Merkel replacements. For an individual with the right personality and leadership, Germany right now is an opportunity. There are millions of disenfranchised and angry Germans craving a leader whom they can really get excited about. Multiple major crises are brewing that need solutions, but they can also be leveraged as political opportunities to assume higher office. And, at least so far, there is no serious competition for public favor other than Chancellor Merkel. But Merkel’s star is diminishing. And it would fade even quicker if the German people were given another option. If they were presented with a leader who was energetic, eloquent and personable; a leader who wasn’t shy about confronting the issues; a leader who wasn’t afraid to talk tough, but also make tough decisions; a leader whose personality and politics appeared suitably modern, moderate and sophisticated, but who could also think and speak and act pragmatically, with force, vigor and power. A leader who felt fresh and new, but at the same time was experienced in German politics, tradition and customs. Perhaps a leader with an impressive royal legacy, who would stir the patriotic sentiments of the German people. A leader who could capture the imagination of the German people.

A leader capable of filling the role of German superman. Perhaps someone like Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.


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IS-ME:160908:(09 SEP 16):’Israel poised to become key player in regional gas industry’

Israel Hayom 08-Aug-16


In London, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz holds series of meetings with world’s leading firms ahead of natural gas and oil exploration tender planned for November • Israeli exploration potential creates industry buzz • Steinitz heading to Singapore next.

Israel is courting foreign investors ahead of a planned natural gas and oil explorations tender the Energy Ministry plans to issue in November, Israel Hayom learned Wednesday.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz is currently visiting London, meeting with dozens of energy and financial services companies ahead of the tender. He is scheduled to continue on to Singapore next, for a series of similar meetings.

The ministry has mapped out a series of future exploration sites, which Steinitz is presenting to potential investors. The presentations also outline projected and expected timetables, competition and regulation guidelines, market reviews, and projected revenue for future gas and oil exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Steinitz’s presentations have reportedly garnered great interest, including from the international financial media. The energy minister has been able to snag the attention of dozens of the world’s top energy firms, such as Woodside Petroleum, the Edison Energy Group, Santos, and the Indian Oil Corporation, to name a few.

“We have embarked on a dialogue with neighboring countries, and after years of delays and putting a uniform regulatory framework in place, things are moving forward,” Steinitz said. “Israel is poised to become a key player in the regional gas industry.”

The tender is expected to be finalized by the end of March 2017.



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MAR-MSY-RU-TU-US:160909:(09 SEP 16):Putin-Erdogan deal for Syria is ME exit for Obama

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report 09-Sep-16


The fledgling “initiatives” reverberating this week in Washington, Moscow, Ankara, Jerusalem and the G20 summit were nothing but distractions from the quiet deals struck by two lead players, Russia and Turkey to seize control of the region’s affairs. Recep Tayyip Erdogan knew nothing would come of his offer on the G20 sidelines to US President Barack Obama to team up for a joint operation to evict ISIS from Raqqa. And, although Moscow was keen on hosting the first handshake in almost a decade between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), neither were known to be ready for the last step toward a meeting.

But the game-changing events to watch out for took place in Hangzhou without fanfare – namely, the Obama-Putin talks and the far more fruitful encounter between Putin and Erdogan.

According to debkafile’s intelligence and Mid East sources, Putin virtually shut the door on further cooperation with the United States in Syria. He highhandedly informed Obama that he now holds all the high cards for controlling the Syrian conflict, whereas Washington was just about out of the game.

Putin picked up the last cards, our sources disclose, in a secret deal with Erdogan for Russian-Turkish collaboration in charting the next steps in the Middle East.

The G20 therefore, instead of promoting new US-Russian understanding, gave the impetus to a new Russian-Turkish partnership.

Erdogan raked in instant winnings: Before he left China, he had pocketed Putin’s nod to grab a nice, 4, slice of northern Syria, as a “security zone” under the control of the Turkish army and air force, with Russian non-interference guaranteed.

This Turkish zone would include the Syrian towns of Jarablus, Manjib, Azaz and Al-Bab.

Ankara would reciprocate by withdrawing its support from the pro-US and pro-Saudi rebel groups fighting the Assad army and its allies in the area north of Aleppo.

Turkey’s concession gave Putin a selling-point to buy the Syrian ruler assent to Erdogan’s project. Ankara’s selling-point to the West was that the planned security zone would provide a safe haven for Syrian refugees and draw off some of the outflow perturbing Europe.

It now turns out that, just as the Americans sold the Syrian Kurds down the river to Turkey (when Vice President Joe Biden last month ordered them to withdraw from their lands to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River or lose US support), so too are the Turks now dropping the Syrian rebels they supported in the mud by re-branding them as “terrorists.”

The head of this NATO nation has moreover gone behind America’s back for a deal with the Russian ruler on how to proceed with the next steps of the Syrian conflict.

Therefore, when US Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva Thursday and Friday, Sept. 8-9, for their sixth and seventh abortive sit-downs on the Syrian issue, there was not much left for them to discuss, aside from continuing to coordinate their air traffic over Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

Washington and Moscow are alike fearful of an accidental collision in the sky in the current inflammable state of relations between the two powers.

As a gesture of warning, a Russian SU-25 fighter jet Tuesday, Sept 6, intercepted a US Navy P8 plane flying on an international route over the Black Sea. When the Russian jet came as close as 12 feet, the US pilots sent out emergency signals – in vain, because the Russian plane’s transponder was switched off. The American plane ended up changing course.

Amid these anomalies, Moscow pressed ahead with preparations to set up a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as the Russian Foreign Ministry announced Thursday.

Putin is keen to succeed where the Obama administration failed. John Kerry abandoned his last effort at peacemaking as a flop two years ago.  But it is hard to see Netanyahu or Abu Mazen rushing to play along with the Russian leader’s plan to demean the US president in the last months of his tenure – especially when no one can tell who will win the November 8 presidential election – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – or what policies either will pursue.

All the region’s actors will no doubt be watching closely to see how Turkey’s “Russian track” plays out and how long the inveterate opportunists can hang together.



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